Highway Robbery

Asset forfeiture outrages have been generating great copy for 20 years. The public gets angry, and maybe a few people spotlighted in the local newspaper investigation get some portion of the property back.  But then it's back to business as usual, at least until the next report.

The latest investigation comes from the San Antonio Express-News, which looked into the lucrative forfeiture practices of the town of Tenaha, Texas. The paper found that though the tiny town of 1,000 seized property from 140 motorists between 2006 and 2008, less than half were charged with an actual crime.

...David Guillory calls the roadside stops and seizures in Tenaha "highway piracy," undertaken by a couple of law enforcement officers whose agencies get to keep most of what was seized.

Guillory is suing officials in Tenaha and Shelby County on behalf of Dorman and nine other clients whose property was confiscated. All were African-Americans driving either rentals or vehicles with out-of-state plates.

Guillory alleges in the lawsuit that while his clients were detained, they were presented with an ultimatum: waive your rights to your property in exchange for a promise to be released and not be criminally charged.

In one case, they threatened to toss a great-grandmother in a jail cell on drug charges unless she signed over the $4,000 she says were her life savings that police found in her car. According to the Express-News, court records make no mention of any evidence she committed a crime.

It's not difficult to see why someone would sign such an agreement, given that fighting even bogus charges could end up costing more than the value of the property the government is seizing.

Tenaha's mayor makes no apologies:

Tenaha Mayor George Bowers, 80, defended the seizures, saying they allowed a cash-poor city the means to add a second police car in a two-policeman town and help pay for a new police station.

“It’s always helpful to have any kind of income to expand your police force,” Bowers said.

Apparently even if you have to steal it at gunpoint.

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  • ||

    Apparently even if you have to steal it at gunpoint.

    As is every dollar they get. Why am I an extremist for thinking that, but he's a dedicated public servant for it?

  • ||

    This is why the guillotine was invented.

  • ||

    Fuck Texas! Will Mexico take it back?

    I kmow, I know. Still, there is something about the Texan mentality that screams asshole.

  • Chuck||

    Tenaha Mayor George Bowers, 80, defended the seizures, saying they allowed a cash-poor city the means to add a second police car in a two-policeman town and help pay for a new police station.

    This guy should go to prison for whatever pitiful bit remains of his miserable life. Actually, he should be brought up on RICO charges, since he admits there is such a system and apparently is in charge of it.

  • ev||

    So 140 seizures in a two-policemen town in two years?

    So legitimately the entire pd was involved in this? Or failing that,one really determined bastard?

    That is fucked.

    Oh, I also love that all the defendants are black. That's always swell.

  • Xeones||

    Yo, fuck Tenaha.

  • Tyler||

    At least this is being investigated. But how many times does it happen when there is no investigation?

    Its like the Blowjobavich scandal. They like to make an example of it to try and pretend it's not standard practice.

  • ||

    Another reminder that not all of the thugs who are looting us are at the federal level. Sigh.

    -jcr

  • ||

    Normally, I would think there's no way these plaintiffs lose this case, but I see nothing as normal anymore.

  • ||

    The mayor isn't even slightly ashamed. Fucking unbelievable.

  • Doctor C||

    Oh, I also love that all the defendants are black. That's always swell.

    I think Driving While Black is still on the books in many Texas counties. Small wonder the mayor doesn't bat an eye at it.

  • dhex||

    completely believable. also completely fucked.

  • ||

    Using your police powers to commit literal highway robbery should have all the charges normally associated with pointing a gun at an old lady and taking all of her money plus additional charges for abuse of office. The reality is that it results in no charges for anything. I wish there was a hell for those people to go to.

  • Federal Dog||

    "then-Montgomery County District Attorney Michael McDougal acknowledged spending hundreds from the fund on alcohol for a community event, and thousands more on staff parties and donations to charities."

    Using assets seized in the "war on drugs" to buy alcohol and prosecutor parties. The predatory bad faith is enough to choke a horse. They're nothing but an organized crime cartel. End of story.

  • Shannon Love||

    Tenaha sits right on the border with Lousianna where these practices are rife. I imagine that is where they got the idea.

    It's basically a extension of the age old practice of small towns writing tickets for traffic violations on major roads that pass by, but not through, the towns. Politicians who ticketed their own electorate that heavily would get lynched.

  • ||

    Tenaha Mayor George Bowers, 80,

    "Greatest Generation" my fucking fuck.
    This two-cent old redneck fuck should be tortured and kept alive artificially so that he doesn't have a heart attack so that he can feel black cock slamming into his ass.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    A town near here got death-penaltied for police abuses much less heinous than that. (Google "New Rome, Ohio.)

  • Mister DNA||

    I think Driving While Black is still on the books in many Texas counties. Small wonder the mayor doesn't bat an eye at it.



    Indeed it is. Years ago, I helped a friend drive a Penske rental truck from Corpus Christi, Texas to Las Vegas, Nevada. By the time we got west of San Antonio, my friend was no longer skeptical of my explanation as to why DPS cars would scope us out as we drove down the highway: "They're just checking to make sure we're white".

  • Semi-Negrocious Former Califor||

    I think Driving While Black is still on the books in many Texas counties.

    Try doing it in San Francisco.

  • ||

    Reason is missing its chance. Get one of their black writers to drive a out of state car that has been totally scrubbed on film for drugs with a hidden camera through the town and wait for them to bust the guy. Sixty Minutes did the same thing with a country in Louisiana and it was made for TV entertainment and got a couple of people sent to jail.

    It is perfect except that Reason doesn't have any black writers. Oh well.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Oh, yeah. At least Tenaha only has two cops. New Rome, with a population of 60, had as many as 14 cops at a time.

  • Doctor C||

    Try doing it in San Francisco.

    I suspect they stop all the young black men for different reasons ...

    "It's twue! It's twue!"

  • ||


    J sub D:
    Fuck Texas! Will Mexico take it back?

    I kmow, I know. Still, there is something about the Texan mentality that screams asshole.



    Unlike some of the lily-white posters here, I am a brown skinned immigrant and citizen of Texas. Yes, crap happens here, like everywhere else, but it also comes to light and is corrected. The victims of the infamous Tulia drug raids, for instance, were pardoned by the governor and the legislature. In this article, you will note:


    Some lawmakers, fed up with calls from irate constituents, say enough is enough. Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, said the state's asset forfeiture law is being abused by enough jurisdictions across the state that he wants to rewrite major sections of it this year.



    When Chicago PD stops railroading innocent people, let me know. When Prince George County apologizes to Mayor Calvo and stops its murderous drug raids, let me know. When New York City gives the average law-abiding black citizen a license to carry a gun - something that is a matter of right in Texas - let me know.

  • Kyle Jordan||

    I...I can't even put my thoughts in to words!!

    Seriously, what the fuck is going on!? You know, each and every day, it seems to me that the ONLY choice we have is another Revolution. And I'm not even hopeful in the slightest that sanity would prevail.

    I may come off as a loon or a weirdo or whatever you want to say but man, I can't tell you how much this depresses me. I hope all of you don't ever run in to something like this or any of the other insane bullshit scenarios that are now reported daily here on Hit & Run.

  • ||

    Kevin P-

    At the risk of sounding like a patronizing dipshit, that was a really good response. Especially the part where you resisted the temptation to personalize it.

  • Doctor C||

    The state's asset seizure law doesn't require that law enforcement agencies file criminal charges in civil forfeiture cases. It requires only a preponderance of evidence that the property was used in the commission of certain crimes, such as drug crimes, or bought with proceeds of those crimes.

    Many jurisdictions have a variation of this law on the books. It has always seemed to me to be a huge conflict of interest as well.

  • Paul||

    There's some vigilante justice in this country's very near future...

  • Doctor C||

    "These ill-gotten gains are used to further the aims of law enforcement and public safety," [Harris County, Texas, D.A. Patricia Lycos] said. "It's kind of poetic justice, isn't it?" Lykos said she believes the law, if followed, provides residents with adequate safeguards. Rarely, she said, do seizures take place locally without the filing of criminal charges.

    She added that the most perfect law in the world could be sullied by the individuals carrying it out.

    "It goes to the integrity of the people enforcing the law," Lykos said.

    Yep, pretty much does!

  • Doctor C||

    There's some vigilante justice in this country's very near future...

    Any cop killed while shaking someone down like this would be given a hero's funeral. People have entirely too much respect for cops, especially after 9/11.

  • Dello||

    Wait 'til the fucks get the stimulus check so they can buy a tank and build a SWAT team....

  • Paul||

    When Prince George County apologizes to Mayor Calvo and stops its murderous drug raids, let me know. When New York City gives the average law-abiding black citizen a license to carry a gun - something that is a matter of right in Texas - let me know.

    Have to admit, he's got a point.

  • Doctor C||

    Wait 'til the fucks get the stimulus check so they can buy a tank and build a SWAT team....

    Imagine how many dogs they'll be able to kill then! It'll be great!

  • ||


    Tenaha Mayor George Bowers, 80, defended the seizures, saying they allowed a cash-poor city the means to add a second police car in a two-policeman town and help pay for a new police station.



    Let's backdate that a few centuries:


    Tenaha Mayor The Sherriff of Nottingham George Bowers, 80, defended the seizures, saying they allowed a cash-poor city fief the means to add a second police car warhorse in a two-policemanhenchman town and help pay for a new police station donjon.

  • TallDave||

    Oh, just wait guys. The next logical step is to give a finders' fee to the officers who make the forfeitures.

    You ain't seen nothin' yet.

  • Doug||

    "In one case, they threatened to toss a great-grandmother in a jail cell on drug charges unless she signed over the $4,000 she says were her life savings that police found in her car."

    Ironically the only person that could afford to waive $4000 in cash is a drug dealer. Catch-22: If you don't give up your $4000, then we'll throw you in jail. If you do, you're a drug dealer, so we'll throw you in jail. My girlfriend wonders why I think it's a dick move to call the police on your neighbors.

  • ||

    Anyone concerned about police corruption should demand, if not an outright repeal, a complete revamping of asset forfeiture statutes.

    Because too often it's not about separating the money from the crooks, it's aboiut connecting the money to the cops.

  • ||

    Jamie Kelly | February 9, 2009, 4:40pm | #
    Tenaha Mayor George Bowers, 80,

    "Greatest Generation" my fucking fuck.
    This two-cent old redneck fuck should be tortured and kept alive artificially so that he doesn't have a heart attack so that he can feel black cock slamming into his ass.



    ... eeeuuwww... involuntary image appears in my mind of skinny wrinkled ol' white ass.... eeeeeuuuw!

    Other than that, I say GO JAMIE!

  • Doctor C||

    Ironically the only person that could afford to waive $4000 in cash is a drug dealer. Catch-22: If you don't give up your $4000, then we'll throw you in jail. If you do, you're a drug dealer, so we'll throw you in jail.

    Of course. It's basically probable cause to carry large amounts of money. The police will happily hold your money for you until you come up with receipts, though.

  • Nigel Watt||

    Did I read that right? The justification for their police stealing things is that it helps to expand their police powers?

    Somebody ought to torch that police station.

  • JB||

    Not that I would ever go to this flea-infested town, but if I did and they pulled that crap, the police and mayor wouldn't wake up one day.

  • Nate||

    Doug, what kind of move does your girlfriend think calling the police on your neighbors is? A sort of "welcome to the neighborhood?"

  • heshaojie||

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