Mark R. McKinney, an Indiana prosecutor, has been cleared of criminal charges for, if Balko has the right background on this, improperly diverting funds gathered by asset forfeiture. I’ve been unable to figure out exactly what it was McKinney did, although I’m, again, pressed for time.
Of course, this is all in association with Delaware’s “Drug Task Force”. I never hear about this sort of thing in association with robbery, rape, murder, human trafficking — you know, real actual bad evil crime sorts of things — just drugs. Any law enforcement group with “Drug” in its name stinks to high heaven, in my opinion; any such group calling itself a “Task Force” is almost guaranteed to be staffed by rabid weasels.
Balko links to Asset Forfeiture Watch, a for-profit organization that trains cops and prosecutors how to steal your money and property without trial, without even filing charges against you, and without giving you an avenue for appeal. A banner ad on their site says, “22 experts show you how to strip criminals of their wealth, INCREASE YOUR RESOURCES, REDUCE CRIME, and ADVANCE YOUR CAREER”.
Balko’s link goes to an Asset Forfeiture Watch article that you can only see the very uninformative first paragraph of, because the rest is “Premium Content”. As a mere citizen, not affiliated with the government, a subscription will cost you three hundred bucks. Government thugs, of course, pay only one hundred bucks, a paltry sum which, of course, comes out your pocket as either taxes or seizures.
I’m sure Asset Forfeiture Watch’s customers are greatly relieved that they can continue to rob you with impunity, as long as they follow the rules and the money goes to the right people through the right channels. Certainly Asset Forfeiture Watch is all but crowing about it.
I’m not linking to this Thieves’ Guild. Google ‘em if you want.
The problem is not that the government lacks the authority to confiscate criminal assets. The very first Congress, in 1789, authorized the federal government to seize criminal assets — as a way of taking illegal goods away from smugglers. Today, some 200 federal criminal and drug control laws include provisions for asset forfeiture. And the 50 states and the District of Columbia all have forfeiture provisions of their own.
The problem is that governments — national, state and local — fail to exercise this power fully. Eric Holder, the attorney general, has already expressed his support for doing so. Back in 1999, when he was the deputy attorney general, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “From telemarketing to terrorism to counterfeiting to violation of the food and drug laws, the remedy of asset forfeiture should be applied.”
(In fairness, I will say that they occasionally put up articles warning against being too blatant: don’t give the Chief a gaudy seized muscle car, putting funds in your own pocket might actually get you arrested despite your badge, “Make sure forfeiture decisions serve valid law enforcement needs”, stuff like that. But the overall tone is “free ride if you follow the rules”. )