Wednesday, April 12, 2017
OFF THE WIRE
It is probably fair to say that most readers here enjoy President Trump’s candor and iconoclasm so much that they don’t care that his brain is made of hair. Maybe it is time to start caring.
The subject of asset forfeiture came up yesterday during a love in with about half the National Sheriffs Association. The subject dominated the conversation recorded in the video below for about six minutes starting at the 21-minute mark. Civil asset forfeiture provides a mechanism that encourages local, federal and state police to steal private property without finding the property’s rightful owner guilty of any crime. Usually all that is needed is an accusation. The practice is a national scandal and obviously the President is just now hearing about it for the first time.
At the end of the asset forfeiture discussion – at about the 27-minute mark – Harold Eavenson, who is the Sheriff of Rockwell County, Texas and who likes to dress up like an admiral, complained about a bill in the Texas Senate (SB380) cosponsored by Konni Burton (photo above) of Forth Worth and Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa of McAllen. Burton is a Republican and Hinojosa is a Democrat. Burton wrote the bill.
The new law would require a criminal conviction before prosecutors could proceed with asset forfeiture. Civil forfeiture would only be allowed if the property owner is unavailable or does not claim the property. SB380 would prohibit state and local law enforcement from receiving proceeds from forfeited property. All funds would go to the county treasurer. Currently in Texas, up to 70 percent of asset forfeiture proceeds go directly into law enforcement agency budgets. Critics refer to the practice as “policing for profit.”
Burton’s bill would also end the practice of transferring seized property to the federal government. Typically, in states with strict asset forfeiture laws, local police turn the assets over to federal officials who then return those assets to local police as a grant. California, for example, has strict state-level restrictions on asset forfeiture, but local police departments get around those laws by participating in a federal asset forfeiture program called “equitable sharing.” Federal officials then legally return 80 percent of the value of the seized assets to local departments and keep 20 percent for themselves.
Sheriff Eavenson doesn’t like politicians touching the money his cops steal so he complained to Trump, “We’ve got a state senator in Texas who was talking about introducing legislation to require conviction before we could receive that forfeiture money.”Trump, appalled, replied, “Can you believe that?”
“I told him the cartel would build a monument to him in Mexico” Eavenson quipped back.
“Who is the State Senator?” Trump wanted to know. “Do I get his name? We’ll destroy his career.”And then all the policemen and Trump laughed.
Today, Burton told the Dallas Morning News, “Property rights are one of the foundational rights in any free society and the taking of property by government is no small matter…. I will not be discouraged or deterred. The moment for reform of our system of asset forfeiture has arrived.”
“I have never met with Sheriff Eavenson,” Burton added, “nor even heard of him before yesterday.”