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June 16, 2014

Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis – Just Another Tyrannical Douchebag?

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Peoria-Mayor-Jim-Ardis-Douchebag-PFtR

Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis: if you can’t handle being mocked stop being a politician. Mocking and ridicule come with the territory so either get a thicker skin or get yourself a new job. Wasting police resources to harass those who oppose you is the act of a tyrant, not a mayor.

Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis was so worried about a parody Twitter account with all of 50 posts and 50 followers he sent the Peoria Police Department on a 3-week chase of the heinous offender who created @peoriamayor (now defunct).

Bizarrely, three separate judges signed off on warrants for this case; one warrant for the Twitter account information, another for the ComCast subscriber information and the third was a search warrant for the home identified by the user’s IP address as identified by ComCast.

Violating the rights of this mere citizen is not only condoned but demanded by Mayor Jim Ardis. Freedom of Speech exists only for Jim Ardis, I suppose, and not for any of the citizens he presides over.

When police finally found the man responsible for mocking their mayor, one Jonathan Daniel, they descended like good little Police State thugs, with all the might they could muster. Since Jonathan Daniel committed no crime they dug through his possessions (illegally) until they found some marijuana.

They arrested Jonathan Daniel’s roommate, charged him with possession and held him on $3,000 bail, after seizing iPhones (2), XBox game controllers (2), private mail, digital memory cards and “drug paraphernalia”, whatever that means.

Presumably one of the cops needed new XBox controllers for his own system? Can’t imagine how else they can rationalize the seizure…

The only reason Daniel faced criminal charges at all is they had to charge him with something… how else do they justify this massive waste of police time and resources?

The crime of mocking one’s mayor is… well… no crime at all. Freedom of expression protects we mere citizens from such attacks by the overzealous minions of the state, or at least they ought to and that’s the point behind the lawsuit filed by Jonathan Daniel.

Jonathan Daniel says police, acting under the specific direction of Mayor Jim Ardis, violated his civil rights.

From March 9 through March 19, 2014, Mr. Daniel tweeted from a Twitter account, @peoriamayor, which used a picture of Jim Ardis (“Ardis”), the mayor of Peoria, as the account’s avatar. Displeased with the content of the tweets, Defendants embarked on a plan to shut down the account and identify and punish its creator in violation of his constitutional rights. As part of Defendants’ plan, Peoria Police Department officers searched Mr. Daniel’s residence, seized his personal property, reviewed personal information on Mr. Daniel’s electronic devices and in his mail, and arrested, detained, and interrogated Mr. Daniel purportedly for the crime of false personation of a public official.

Good for Jonathan Daniel for standing up for himself in the face of such blatant abuse of power.

If there is any sense of actual justice left in Illinois (and I wouldn’t bet on it given 3 separate judges issued search warrants in this case) then Jonathan Daniel’s win will be a slam-dunk.

 

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May 11, 2014

Russ Caswell, Civil Forfeiture and a Little Common Sense

Motel-Caswell-PFTR

Russ Caswell, now 70, spent the last two years fighting local, state and federal agencies over who owns Motel Caswell, the motel owned by his family since 1955.

I first wrote about Russ Caswell and his civil asset forfeiture nightmare on July 1, 2012 when his case broke internationally. From that article:

It is now, like many older motels across the nation, home to lower-income people such as seniors, as well as temporary workers who pay by the week or month.

While rates to stay there are not expensive, there is one thing the motel has that is very valuable to the thieving local police department and the thieving federal government that’s helping the thieving local police department: equity.

Caswell owns the property outright.

Why is this significant? Since Caswell’s property has no mortgage the State can keep the entire proceeds of the sale of the property after they steal it from him. Of course they don’t call it theft or stealing… they call it cracking down on crime.

In the case of Russ Caswell, it makes absolutely no difference that he has never been charged with a crime. In fact, it’s not any actions of his that concerns the thieving police and federal justice department.

It’s the actions of roughly 30 patrons of his motel over the past 18 years who have been arrested on drug charges. That’s right. Since 1994 approximately 30 people have been arrested on drug charges.

The US Justice Department and its thieving local counterpart, the Tewksbury Police Department, contend that Caswell is responsible for what people do in his motel rooms every minute of every day. His motel rooms were used to “facilitate” the crime of drug dealing, therefore the motel is guilty and must be seized as proceeds of crime.

Police and government officials, thieving scumbags each and every one, decided that Caswell’s property should be theirs so they set out to steal the Caswell family motel using one of the most abused laws ever devised: civil asset forfeiture.

The notion that you can “take the profit out of crime” by seizing the assets of criminals seems noble enough, but only if you accept without question the rhetoric and sound-bytes used to sell this atrocious legislation.

You may never be charged with a crime, let alone be convicted of one, before government thieves seize your property. That ought to terrify even the most law-abiding and pro-government among us.

In Caswell’s case thieving police and prosecutors don’t care that Caswell never committed a crime. That’s entirely beside the point.

The accusation against Russ Caswell isn’t that he didn’t do enough to help police crack down on crime in his motel. That is utter garbage if not an outright lie. Russ Caswell installed video cameras, recorded license plate numbers and customer identification, gave police free rooms for their sting operations… in fact he did everything ever asked of him by law enforcement.

That wasn’t enough. Now the Tewksbury Police Department thieves, along with state and federal counterparts, insist the Caswell’s must give up their home and livelihood too.

“I’ve found, which is kind of hard to believe, but I’m responsible for the action of people I don’t even know, I’ve never even met, and for the most part I have no control over them,” Caswell said in court. “And I have to rent them a room unless I have a real good reason not to or I get accused of discrimination and that kind of thing.”

“And when they do something wrong, the government wants to steal my property for the actions of those people, which to me makes absolutely no sense,” he added. “It’s more like we’re in Russia or Venezuela or something.”

The government thieves have three things on their side:

1. You need never be charged with or convicted of a crime, so that pesky issue of your guilt need never be addressed,

2. Police and Prosecutors keep most of the money and assets they seize. Legislation is often written giving police and prosecutors 100% of what they steal, and

3. The burden of proof is far lower for a civil action than a criminal prosecution. Under civil asset forfeiture police and prosecutors must never prove guilt, obtain a conviction or even file criminal charges before they seize private property. The term “on a balance of probabilities‘ is the phrase used to rationalize theft of private property.

This turns the notion of justice on its head. The accused must prove they did not commit a crime. How you prove you haven’t done something is… well… beside the point, right? Proving a negative isn’t possible.

Really, who cares, right? It’s just drug dealers and criminals they’re going after, not decent, law-abiding citizens. It’s not like they’re stealing your home, right?

Wrong. So utterly and completely wrong. The Caswell family didn’t do anything wrong. In fact they did everything asked of them by law enforcement. That wasn’t enough, and there is a very simple explanation for why.

Follow the money. It’s always about the money.

Statistics from the United States are utterly terrifying.

In 1985, the U.S. Department of Justice created its Asset Forfeiture Fund. One year later, the fund — which holds the proceeds from seized property and is available to be divvied out to law enforcement agencies — brought in $93.7 million. In 2008, the amount had ballooned to $1.6 billion. In 2013, it reached $6.3 billion.

The incentive here is cash. Boatloads of cash. Cash for police departments and prosecutors’ offices. Cash that is used to pad government budgets because government must always get bigger, not smaller, when it’s not being used to pay lavish expenses for corrupt prosecutors, that is.

An investigation conducted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution looked into how funds over a five-year period were spent in Georgia. According to the newspaper, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard spent thousands of dollars gleaned from civil forfeitures on pricey dinners and an elaborate home security system for himself. In November 2009, he allegedly paid $800 to rent out a movie theater. Three months later, Howard told his employees they’d have to take 10 furlough days due to budget constraints.

In Caswell’s case it’s very simple. The annual budget of the Tewksbury Police Department is just $5.5 million.

Motel Caswell is valued at $1.5 millon.

Get the picture?

The greedy thugs of the Tewksbury Police Department saw a way to raise over 25% of their annual budget with the theft of a single property.

These greedy little pigs desperately need a refresher in Peel’s 9 Principles of Policing.

The concept of a limited government is so old fashioned, isn’t it? It shouldn’t be. The goal of every responsible government is to pare down its thievery from we mere citizens, not expand it to the point we have nothing left to feed the monstrous behemoth.

Civil forfeiture laws in America are almost 3 decades old. That’s a generation of police and prosecutors used to stealing from we mere citizens whenever the mood strikes them. At $6.3 billion stolen from mere citizens in 2013 alone, the mood clearly strikes them regularly.

In Russ Caswell’s case a federal judge finally applied some common sense to his situation.

After a four-day trial, on Jan. 24, 2013, a federal judge in Boston dismissed the forfeiture action against the motel, ruling that the government engaged in “gross exaggeration” of the evidence and did not have authority to seize the property.

In short, both police and multiple layers of government overstepped their bounds. Again. They chose their greed ahead of their duty and responsibility to those mere citizens whom they feel free to abuse so mercilessly.

Larry Salzman, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, took on Caswell’s case pro bono.

“You breed a culture of ‘take first, ask questions later,’” Larry Salzman, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, told FoxNews.com. “It’s thuggish behavior.”

Absolutely.

The attempted theft of Motel Caswell from Russ Caswell and his family is, as the title of the free book from The Institute for Justice says, nothing more than Policing for Profit: the Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture.

I urge you to download and read this free book from The Institute for Justice. Then contact your elected representative and demand they reform civil asset forfeiture law in your jurisdiction. Don’t kid yourself. It will be an uphill battle. Police and government look at civil asset forfeiture as “free money” and they won’t give it up willingly.

Here in British Columbia, for example, the cash incentive is the primary motivation for civil asset forfeiture. The government doesn’t handle the thefts itself, however. It farms out the work to other lawyers.

Here’s the catch though… those lawyers only get paid if they are successful in stealing property from some hapless mere citizen. It matters not whether that person is an actual criminal or not…

Private property should never be forfeited unless it is proven in a court of law that a crime was committed and that the individual in question profited from that crime. This would, of course, require we drag our justice system back to its noble beginnings.

Remember the days where you were innocent until proven guilty in a court of law?

Don’t be absurd, Christopher! That’s so…. last century

Yet today, the government in America seems more like the former enemies we vanquished than the place of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness the Framers established.

Judge Andrew P. Napolitano

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March 11, 2014

Record Police. It IS Legal. That won’t stop you from being arrested…

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It is legal to record police doing their job, even when they don’t like it. This is true on both sides of the border. The trouble is that while video-recording is legal, police still seize cameras and harass mere citizens even though those citizens have committed no crimes.

The latest victim of this police malfeasance is George Thompson, who used his cell phone camera to record on-duty Fall River Police Officer Tom Barboza. Barboza took offense, arrested Thompson, seized his cell phone and charged him with “unlawful wiretapping”.

It’s a completely bogus charge and even the thuggish Barboza knows it.

Barboza released George Thompson from jail but kept his cell phone. Two days later all video on the phone was erased, but according to the police they had nothing to do with the deletions. Just ask them. That’s exactly what they’ll tell you.

They readily admit the phone was in their custody at the time the video “vanished”, but deny they had anything to do with it.

For his part, Fall River Police Chief Daniel Racine professed to be outraged.

“If a Fall River police officer erased that video, he’s fired. And I would suspect the district attorney would take out charges.”

While that makes a great sound byte, the reality of this case is likely to be very different.

As we know from far too many bad experiences with the RCMP, when police investigate themselves there is very rarely any misconduct found.

George Thompson, like me, is not holding out much hope anything will come of this investigation.

“They’re investigating themselves and there’s a code of blue and everybody knows that.”

We mere citizens can’t compete with the Code of Blue.

Can you say “Civilian Oversight?”

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October 5, 2013

Unreasonable Search and Seizure – Will We Force DNA Samples from people simply for being arrested?

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Charter-Section-8---Right-to-be-Free-from-UInreasonable-Search-and-Seizure

For a “conservative” government Stephen Harper’s Conservatives continue to prove they don’t know the meaning of the word. Justice Minister Peter MacKay spoke publicly about the issue of forcing people to provide DNA samples upon arrest and he thinks it’s a good idea.

“I know there’s always privacy considerations in the backdrop to this and it has to be balanced in the bigger picture. But I think that, you know, the timing of the taking of DNA is something that could very well emerge in the future as another issue of importance.”

At present Canadian law ONLY provides for the collection of DNA samples from convicted criminals, and even then, only from those convicted of sex crimes or murder. In rare cases DNA samples were compelled from those convicted of drug trafficking offenses as well.

“Right now we’re limited to taking it on conviction. It could be expanded to take on arrest, like a fingerprint. I maintain that, you know, a genetic fingerprint is no different and could be used in my view as an investigative tool.”

This is what I like to call a “trial balloon” much like that floated by former Public Safety Minister Vic Toews when he attempted to get Bill C-30, the bill designed to force Internet Service Providers to hand over private information about their subscribers, passed.

The public outcry and pushback was immediate and intense, forcing Toews and the Conservative government to cancel the bill entirely.

It’s time for another public outcry; time for another pushback against the machinations of Canada’s “conservative-in-name-only” government.

DNA-155x300Those who believe our Rights and Freedoms mean something tangible obviously are against such a move by our government. The justification that “if you’ve done nothing wrong you’ve got nothing to hide” is retarded, as innocent people should not be forced to hand over the most personal thing about them, their DNA, without a good and compelling reason. Simply being arrested is no such reason.

Were Canada to go down this road, can you imagine the nightmare (or Orwellian Dream) the mass arrests of protesters such as those at the Toronto G8 conference would be?

Once again the rationalization for this comes from south of the border, where the US Supreme Court has already upheld taking DNA samples from those arrested for “serious” crimes. The definition of serious is, naturally, up to whoever writes the laws or the legal decisions.

Here in Canada lawyer Solomon Friedman made it quite clear that this is not about identifying an individual, but about connecting individuals to unsolved crimes.

“We take fingerprints from people when they’re arrested. This is just the same,” said Brian Lilley on his Sun News Network show Byline.

Solomon Friedman replied,

“I think that line of reasoning ends right there. You take fingerprints from people to identify them. Well, you already have their fingerprints. There’s no danger that someone else is going to claim they’re that person. That has nothing to do with the collection of DNA. The purpose of the collection of DNA is quite simple: it’s to try and solve old files. In other words, it’s to try and get evidence against that person who is in custody, not convicted, by use of their DNA records. That’s problematic.”

That’s an understatement.

If you believe, as I do, that taking DNA samples from individuals who have yet to be convicted of any crime is offensive to our Charter Right to be Free from Unreasonable Search and Seizure, then I urge you to write to Justice Minister Peter MacKay, Solicitor General Steven Blaney and Prime Minister Stephen Harper today.

Demand they put an end to this abuse of our Charter Right against unreasonable search and seizure immediately.

Charter of Rights and Freedoms Section 8:

Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.

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February 22, 2013

A Victory for Privacy Rights! Conservatives Kill Bill C-30

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Bill-C-30-Does-Vic-Toews-Now-Stand-With-Child-Pornographers

When the Conservatives introduced Bill C-30, titled the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, Vic Toews said anyone who didn’t agree with the bill was standing “with the child pornographers”.

In light of that stand, I suppose it’s reasonable to conclude Vic Toews is now standing “with the child pornographers” in the wake his government’s decision to kill off the bill.

In the wake of massive public outcry and social media campaigns against Bill C-30 Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced, almost a year to the day Vic Toews introduced Bill C-30 to parliament, he was putting the final nail in the coffin of a bill that would have stripped Canadians of one of their most fundamental Rights: the Right to be Free from Unreasonable Search and Seizure.

Here is an excerpt of the Ottawa Citizen article on this announcement:

Almost one year after introducing its controversial Internet-surveillance bill, the federal government has conceded the measure is officially dead due to public outrage.

Shortly after tabling new legislation that incorporates some of the less contentious elements of Bill C-30 related to emergency wiretaps, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson admitted Monday that the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act will not proceed.

“We will not be proceeding with Bill C-30 and any attempts that we will continue to have to modernize the Criminal Code will not contain the measures in C-30, including the warrantless mandatory disclosure of basic subscriber information or the requirement for telecommunications service providers to build intercept capability in their systems,” he said Monday.

“We’ve listened to the concerns of Canadians who’ve been very clear on this and we’re responding to that.”

This is great news.

Governments only change direction when they learn it will cost them votes. Politicians don’t care about anything else.

So the next time your elected officials try implementing more anti-Freedom legislation, make sure they know it will cost them dearly… when we do it’s amazing how fast they stop dead in their tracks.

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