------------------------------------------------------------------- Drug War Chipping Away At America's Grip On Basic Rights (An excellent column in the Columbus Dispatch by Steve Stephens comments on the DEA's seizure of $19,000 from the automobile of Los Angeles Laker Corie Blount, a resident of Columbus, Ohio, who was pulled over on Christmas Eve because the tint on his car windows was deemed too dark. The police undoubtedly would intervene if citizens began seizing squad cars and returning them only when cops proved the vehicles were not being used for doughnut runs. But the rules applying to citizens do not apply to the authorities. Maybe that's why we have so many authorities.) Date: Mon, 18 Jan 1999 22:15:43 +0000 To: email@example.com From: Peter Webster (firstname.lastname@example.org) Subject:  Drug War Chipping Away At America's Grip On Basic Rights Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH) Copyright: 1999, The Columbus Dispatch Website: http://www.dispatch.com/ Contact: email@example.com Pubdate: Mon, 18 Jan 1999 Author: Steve Stephens Note: Steve Stephens is a Dispatch Metro columnist & can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-461-5201. DRUG WAR CHIPPING AWAY AT AMERICA'S GRIP ON BASIC RIGHTS David Stern must wish he had the kind of negotiating power wielded by the State Highway Patrol. The commissioner watched as team owners in the National Basketball Association staged a six-month lockout to get contract concessions from NBA players. But when the Highway Patrol wanted to squeeze some money from Los Angeles Laker Corie Blount, it simply seized a big bag of cash from his car. Blount, a Columbus resident, was pulled over near Wilmington on Christmas Eve because the tint on his car windows was deemed too dark. The trooper who stopped him just happened to have a drug-sniffing dog along for the ride. The dog found no drugs but did alert its handler to a bag filled with $19,000. (Where can I get one of these money-sniffing dogs?) No charges were filed, but the money was turned over to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. A fine of $19,000 seems pretty stiff for a window-tint violation, but U.S. law permits authorities to confiscate cash pretty much at will these days. If the cops decide they want a particular pile of money, they need only claim that it would probably have been used to buy drugs. To get the money back, the (former) owner of the cash must take the cops to court to prove otherwise. The police undoubtedly would intervene if citizens began seizing squad cars and returning them only when cops proved the vehicles were not being used for doughnut runs. But the rules applying to citizens do not apply to the authorities. (Maybe that's why we have so many authorities.) Now Blount will have to sue to get back the money. What was he doing with $19,000 in cash? That's none of your business. None of mine, either. As Blount made $1.43 million last year, $19,000 represents less than a week's pay for him. Blount said he got the cash from selling a car, but he shouldn't have to explain that to anyone -- including the Highway Patrol and the DEA -- unless charges are filed. Citizens should have the right to drive cars filled with money (probably nickels in my case) around DEA headquarters, unimpeded, for hours on end if they so choose. Those with the inclination should be allowed -- if not encouraged -- to fashion two-piece suits of $50 bills, with matching vests of $100s, and wear them as they ride the elevators at FBI headquarters. A person's money should be his own, to do with what he will. Authorities should be forced to prove that money is connected to a crime before taking it. But we are living in a time when basic rights are routinely sacrificed to the "War on Drugs,'' and the Bill of Rights no longer means what it appears to say. All money is now the government's, whenever it wants to come get it. If the proposed U.S. flag-burning amendment passes, it will likely become illegal even to light cigars with $20 bills, because they depict Old Glory atop the White House. Blount probably won't miss his $19,000. But many other innocent citizens, less able to afford the loss and the high-priced attorneys needed for a court fight, have suffered from the same seizure laws. How many basic rights will be seized before citizens demand their return?
------------------------------------------------------------------- DEA agent charged in shooting (The Associated Press says Joseph Armento, an off-duty federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent, was charged with shooting into an occupied vehicle and unlawful wounding in Hampton, Virginia, after a parking lot confrontation left two men wounded, one critically. The incident early Thursday morning started when three men leaving a bar got into an argument with Armento and two other off-duty DEA agents.) From: "Bob Owen@W.H.E.N." (email@example.com) To: "_Drug Policy --" (firstname.lastname@example.org) Subject: DEA agent charged in shooting Date: Mon, 18 Jan 1999 16:28:12 -0800 Sender: email@example.com DEA agent charged in shooting Associated Press, 01/18/99 09:41 HAMPTON, Va. (AP) - An off-duty federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent was charged in a parking lot shooting that wounded two men, one critically. Joseph Armento, 34, was charged with shooting into an occupied vehicle and unlawful wounding, police said. He was expected to surrender to police Tuesday, Sgt. Jeff Walden said. The incident early Thursday morning started when three men leaving a bar got into an argument with Armento and two other off-duty DEA agents. Joey Turk said that when he saw that Armento and his friends were armed, he retrieved a weapon from a friend's truck and put it on the hood. That's when Armento opened fire, Turk said. Armento was the only one to fire, police said. Jason Temple, 21, was struck in the chest, the bullet piercing a lung and passing within an inch of his heart. He was in critical condition Sunday at Riverside Regional Medical Center. A hospital spokeswoman said his family asked that no updated information on his condition be released. Turk, 20, was hit in the upper left arm. He was treated and released. Turk said he had seen Armento and his two companions drinking in the bar before the shooting. `When we walked out of the bar, we looked at them, and one of them said, `What are you looking at?'' Turk said. He said Temple answered back with the same line. DEA officials said the shooting was under investigation. *** When away, you can STOP and RESTART W.H.E.N.'s news clippings by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Ignore the Subject: line. In the body put "unsubscribe when" to STOP. To RESTART, put "subscribe when" in the e-mail instead (No quotation marks.) -------------------------------------------------------------------
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