Don’t know how I missed this story dated July 2017. Maybe it was because I was busy not missing too much else, and maybe because…
Wait. First, DailyKos poked me about it the other day.
Using imaginary statistics of rising crime and the need to re-enlist in the lost “war on drugs,” the Department of Justice and Jeff Sessions have decided to go all in on civil asset forfeiture.
The new policy from Attorney General Jeff Sessions authorizes federal “adoption” of assets seized by state and local police when the conduct that led to the seizures violates federal law.
…Earlier this week, Sessions told the National District Attorneys Association that “no criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime.”
Which is why they will allow the police to keep people’s stuff without them being charged with a crime? While Republicans steal from the public coffers to pay out big tax breaks to the rich and the rich’s corporations, the need to find funding for the social services we all want—including law enforcement—becomes more desperate and asset forfeiture is seen as a much more attractive option.
But this started me thinking about Trump.
Hang on just a minute to catch up on the definition of civil asset forfeiture, from Black’s Law Dictionary:
civil forfeiture. An in rem* proceeding brought by the government against property that either facilitated a crime or was acquired as a result of criminal activity.
Hm. Now let’s try criminal forfeiture:
criminal forfeiture. A governmental proceeding brought against a person to seize property as punishment for the person’s criminal behavior.
*In rem adj [Latin “against a thing”]. Involving or determining the status of a thing, and therefore the rights of persons generally with respect to that thing.
While I’m having fun here I could also give you the definition of quasi in rem, but I know I’m driving you crazy, so let’s go on to the central issue.
Heretofore, the government could seize assets of people who had acquired those assets in a nasty way. But first, the government had to prove that nasty way in court.
I have a vague memory from my time working for lawyers of such a case, during which the guy whose assets were about to be seized argued — through his lawyer — that some of those assets (maybe a family home or a car or bathroom towels or whatever) were legally acquired by his wife and were not bought by the proceeds of the crime for which he was charged. So should be removed from the forfeiture list.
What Sessions is trying to do is outrageously overreaching. Which reminds me unpleasantly of Sarah Stillman’s devastatingly enraging New Yorker article, “Taken,”
about how perfectly innocent motorists driving through one town in Texas had their cars and anything in their cars seized and held for nothing whatsoever, just fraudulent charges brought by the criminal gang that was the local law ‘n’ order — sheriffs, prosecutors, et al — of that community. Because that’s how the community financed itself. Never mind taxes; they grabbed property of anyone who foolishly and unwittingly crossed their line of sight.
If I’m reading correctly, that is precisely what Jeff Sessions wants to do: arrest someone and grab and sell his property before he has been tried and convicted. Which would make the DOJ a criminal gang. Wouldn’t it?
But here’s the weird bright aspect of this crapola: if Trump and his family are, as we all thoroughly suspect, running a RICO**out of Trump Tower and now the White House; and if Robert Mueller indicts them for money laundering, say, or conspiracy to defraud us voters of an election, or serious innumerable ethics violations…
Well, wouldn’t all those Trumpian assets acquired by virtue of money laundering, et cetera, be seize-able and saleable even before the Trump Familie (German) is convicted by a jury and sentenced, or is sent into exile in Sochi, Russia? And the proceeds returned to us taxpayers?
**RICO, abbr. RACKETEER INFLUENCED AND CORRUPT ORGANIZATION.