The Case Against 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, Ma
Interesting case. I wasn’t aware of it myself until this morning when I read George Will’s article “When the Looter is the Government”.
To provide a few background details in the case:
This town’s police department is conniving with the federal government to circumvent Massachusetts law — which is less permissive than federal law — to seize his livelihood and retirement asset. In the lawsuit titled United States of America v. 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, Massachusetts, the government is suing an inanimate object, the motel Caswell’s father built in 1955. The U.S. Department of Justice intends to seize it, sell it for perhaps $1.5 million and give up to 80 percent of that to the Tewksbury Police Department, whose budget is just $5.5 million. The Caswells have not been charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime. They are being persecuted by two governments eager to profit from what is antiseptically called the “equitable sharing” of the fruits of civil forfeiture, a process of government enrichment that often is indistinguishable from robbery.
Since 1994, about 30 motel customers have been arrested on drug-dealing charges. Even if those police figures are accurate — the police have a substantial monetary incentive to exaggerate — these 30 episodes involved less than 5/100ths of 1 percent of the 125,000 rooms Caswell has rented over those more than 6,700 days. Yet this is the government’s excuse for impoverishing the Caswells by seizing this property, which is their only significant source of income and all of their retirement security.
The government says the rooms were used to “facilitate” a crime. It does not say the Caswells knew or even that they were supposed to know what was going on in all their rooms all the time. Civil forfeiture law treats citizens worse than criminals, requiring them to prove their innocence — to prove they did everything possible to prevent those rare crimes from occurring in a few of those rooms. What counts as possible remains vague. The Caswells voluntarily installed security cameras, they photocopy customers’ identifications and record their license plates, and they turn the information over to the police, who have never asked the Caswells to do more.
Basically, it’s a “sting” operation that allows government to “confiscate” properties that might be vulnerable. (Yes, I know that stealing is probably a far more accurate description). According to Will’s article, a federal drug agent roots around in public records to find “targets”. (Great…so now we’re paying them to steal from us, too?)
The Institute for Justice is taking up the case on the side of the defendants. They have a booklet describing activities and laws in various states at the site linked.
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
I don’t know what it is about that simple fact that so many Americans do not seem to comprehend, but apparently they don’t. If they did, they would be adamantly opposed to all this “fairness” and “equality” tripe that President Obama keeps claiming we “need”. They’d see through the ruse of “fairness” and “equality” to understand that handing government even more power is a huge, HUGE error in judgment.
By handing even more power to government, we’re only ensuring more corruption. A government that is corrupt that can not be trusted to honor the law or to keep its promises.
Hopefully, we can find a way to get this point across loud and clear between now and November!