Saturday, December 22, 2007

They made an offer he couldn't refuse.

One of the great legal tragedies in recent years has been the subtle, often blatant, reversal of the burden of proof which power hungry politicians have pushed through. Burden of proof in criminal cases means you are not required to prove your innocence but that the state has to prove your guilt. Well, that along with numerous constitutional rights, has been jettisoned by the bipartisan war on liberty that has been going on for decades.

A blatant case of this is Luther Ricks Sr. and his wife Meredith, both worked at Ohio Steel Foundry. They never had a bank account. They kept a safe in the house and all their savings were deposited in the safe. Over a lifetime, between them, they saved around $400,000.

In June two men broke into the Ricks home and found Ricks and his son there. The men attacked. Ricks’ son was stabbed. Ricks managed to get free of the men and grabbed a gun he had for protection. He shot the one man killing him. Then he made a mistake. He called the police.

The police arrived on the scene to investigate. They searched the house and discovered a small amount of marijuana which Ricks says he uses periodically due to pain brought on my arthritis, shingles and hip replacement that he had. In the end no criminal charges were filed against him. The shooting was clearly self defense and the amount of pot was so trivial that it wasn’t worth worrying about (as if any amount is). But the presence of even a minute amount of pot means the police can act in criminal ways. I say criminal not because it violates the law but because it violates the rights of others.

The police had Ricks open his safe and they emptied out his life savings and walked off with it. Under the draconian, authoritarian asset forfeiture laws the police can claim that funds are the result of criminal activity. Presumably they will argue the presence of a tiny amount of pot is sufficient grounds to claim Ricks was involved with a criminal conspiracy.

The police are not required to prove it. They need not bring any charges against Mr. Ricks. They don’t have to any substantial evidence except their say so. At this point the law says to Ricks that he is required to prove that every dollar he saved was earned legitimately. Can he do it? Not likely? Who would be able to.

Ricks could show that he’s earned far more than was confiscated and so did his wife. But that doesn’t mean the money he earned and the money in the safe is the same money. In essence he will never be able to prove that the funds were honestly earned. Consider the cash in your wallet for a second. Can you provide a paper trail showing precisely where it came from?

If you kept a receipt when you cash your paycheck would that work? Not really. It might show you got $1000 and maybe you have $500 in your pocket. But couldn’t you have also have spent $2000 and have earned $1500 illegally? It’s possible. The $500 you have left could be change from illegal activities not change from legal ones. And you can’t prove otherwise.

Under asset forfeiture the police are encouraged to become common thieves. What they steal they normally get to keep for their own budget and that can mean nice pay increases for the thugs in uniform. Of course sometimes bigger thieves come along and that is what happened here. The feds got involved. The FBI showed up and claimed the money for themselves.

So the Lima, Ohio police had to give the $400,000 they stole to the big boys from The Feds gang. Of course the Limo cops can fight for the money. But what is unlikely is that Mr. Ricks will ever get his life savings back. He’d like to hire an attorney but the cops walked off with all his savings.

Now remember why we have government. It is there to protect us from criminals who would violate our lives, liberty or property. The only problem is that criminals these days are downright kind compared to The Feds. Now and then I remind myself that I was once mugged. And that is supposed to remind me that having government there to protect us is such a good idea.

The only problem is that when I compare being robbed to being governed I keep finding robbery to be the better deal. The muggers don’t come around as often. They don’t take as much. And they don’t try to persuade me that they are doing it for my own good. In the case of Mr. Ricks it was pretty much the same thing. He was attacked by robbers and he defended himself. Then his “protectors” protected him out of his life savings and there isn’t a hell of a lot he can do about it. The gang that has the money is far too big and powerful. And if he protests too loudly they will start calling his home a “compound” and eventually it will come to a tragic end.

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