Innocent couple about to lose their motel and future to law enforcement abuse

This is an unspeakable horror. A man and his family, who have never committed a crime and who own a motel are about to lose it all, because US Federal law enforcement is going to seize it and give the proceeds of its sale to local police.

Russ Casswell and his family have owned and operated their motel for two generations in Tewksbury Massachusetts. No one in the family has committed any crimes, but because there were a few arrests on the premises in the past 20 years, the US Justice Department is going to seize the property using Federal “civil asset forfeiture” laws, which allow law enforcement to seize “guilty” property without due process for the owners. The “Justice” Department then sells the seized assets and gives part of the proceeds to local law enforcement where the property was seized. This is a perfect way for local officials to make money to pay for police without having to raise taxes on the locals.

The horrible part of this is the complete lack of recourse for the family, except to sue the US Government on behalf of the seized property. There is no guarantee they will be able to get it back, since they have to prove the property was not directly involved in any crimes. Yes, they have to “prove” their motel is “innocent” before they have a chance to get it back. These laws have only been in place since 1986, as part of the “War on Drugs” effort. The intent was to take property from drug criminals obtained with “guilty” money, and reimburse local law enforcement with the proceeds. The trouble is the law does not allow for “innocent until proven guilty” that other laws in the US require. Therefore, local law enforcement agencies have been able to use wider and wider definitions of “guilty property” in order to seize more and more from innocent people, and they use the power of the Federal Government to circumvent any local laws that might hinder them.

The Casswells are fighting back, however, they’re suing the US Government, and the people at the Institute for Justice are helping them. I hope they can win this case, for all our sakes! I mean, if I wanted to live in a country where nothing I own is safe from arbitrary seizure by a “Justice Department”, I’d go live somewhere like North Korea!

Watch the video, and go to http://www.ij.org/about/4058 to find out more, and how to contribute to the Casswell’s defense fund. It’s important, for all of us!

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One Response to Innocent couple about to lose their motel and future to law enforcement abuse

  1. Rwolf says:

    Re: Police Civil Forfeiture of Caswell Motel

    All Real Estate agents in Tewksbury, MA should publicly be asked, to disclose to their prospective buyers of income property, that Tewksbury police are currently using civil forfeiture to seize property from innocent owners, i.e., the Caswell Motel; because of what a few guests illegally did unbeknownst to the owner; Tewksbury real estate agents should publicly be asked to disclose Tewksbury local police, could similarly seize property from innocent owners e.g. hotels, apartment buildings, RV Parks and restaurants. It would appear Tewksbury police civil forfeiture of income property from “innocent owners” materially affects all Tewksbury income property and should be disclosed to prospective income property buyers.

    Note: that police, too easily can use civil asset forfeiture to target property owners they deem undesirable, e.g. political reasons: police undercover agents can meet a drug dealer in a bar or elsewhere, then steer the drug buy to the property where the dealer rents an apartment or motel room to cause civil forfeiture of the innocent owner’s property. Consider most every income rental property in America that rents rooms, dwellings or office space, could be civilly forfeited from an innocent owner because—it isn’t possible for an “innocent owner” to know what their guests or renters are doing behind closed doors.

    If Motel Caswell is civilly forfeited in this manner, that will increasingly make it difficult for owners of motels, hotels and apartment buildings to sell their properties: fear of government / police civil asset forfeiture from innocent owners will increasingly scare off buyers for these types of properties.

    EXPECT MORE POLICE CORRUPTION WITH NO-WARRANT SEARCHES

    U.S. Government wants the power without a warrant, to introduce as evidence in criminal prosecutions and government civil trials, any phone call record, email or Internet activity. Alarmingly, that would open the door for Police to take out of context, any innocent—hastily written email, fax or phone call record to allege a crime or violation was committed to cause a person’s arrest, fines and or civil asset forfeiture of their property. There are more than 350 laws and violations that can subject property to government asset forfeiture: Government civil asset forfeiture requires only a civil preponderance of evidence for police to forfeit property, little more than hearsay.

    If the Justice Department has its way, any information the FBI derives from (no warrant) acquisition of Web Server Records; User Internet Activity, emails; and phone records, can be used by the FBI for (fishing expeditions) to issue subpoenas in hopes of finding evidence, to prosecute Citizens for any alleged crime or violation—circumventing the Fourth Amendment. Consider: neither Congress nor the courts—determined what NSA electronic surveillance, perhaps illegal under Bush II, could be used by police or introduced into court by government to prosecute U.S. Citizens criminally or civilly. If U.S. Justice Department is permitted (No-warrant) surveillance of all electronic communications, it is problematic state and local law enforcement agencies and private government contractors will want access to prior Bush II /NSA and other government (retained electronic records) of Internet activity; emails and phone call information to secure evidence to arrest Americans and or civilly forfeit their homes, businesses and other assets under Title 18USC and other laws. Of obvious concern, what happens to fair justice in America if police become dependent on “Asset Forfeiture” to help pay their salaries and budget operating costs?

    The “Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000” (effectively eliminated) the “five year statue of limitations” for Government Civil Asset Forfeiture: the statute now runs five years (from the date) police allege they “learned” an asset became subject to forfeiture. It is foreseeable should (no warrant electronic surveillance) be approved; police will relentlessly sift through Citizen and businesses’ (government stored Internet data), emails and phone communications to discover alleged crimes or civil violations. A corrupt/despot U.S. Government may too easily use no-warrant- (seized emails, Internet data and phone call information) to blackmail Americans, corporations and others in the same manner Hitler utilized his earlier passed police state laws to later extort members of parliament, corporations and the wealthy to support passage of Hitler’s 1933 Discriminatory Decrees that suspended the Constitutional Freedoms of German Citizens. A Nazi Government threat of Civil Asset Forfeiture of an individual or corporation’s assets was usually sufficient to ensure Nazi support.

    Under U.S. federal civil forfeiture laws, a person or business need not be charged with a crime for government to forfeit their property. Most U.S. Citizens, property and business owners that defend their assets against Government Civil Asset Forfeiture claim an “innocent owner defense.” This defense can become a “Catch 22” a criminal prosecution trap for both guilty and innocent property owners. Any fresh denial of guilt made to government when questioned about committing a crime “even when you did not do the crime” may “involuntarily waive” a defendant’s right to assert in their defense—the “Criminal Statute of Limitations” past for prosecution; any fresh denial of guilt even 30 years after a crime was committed may allow Government prosecutors to use old and new evidence; including information discovered during a Civil Asset Forfeiture Proceeding to launch a criminal prosecution. For that reason many innocent Americans, property and business owners are reluctant to defend their property and businesses against Government Civil Asset Forfeiture.

    Re: waiving Criminal Statute of Limitations: see USC18, Sec.1001, James Brogan V. United States. N0.96-1579. U.S. See paragraph (6) at:
    http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/96-1579.ZC1.html

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