Posts tagged ‘SWAT’

Prosecutorial Abuse

While nominally about the Gibson Guitar raid, this article is actually a great primer on abusive prosecutorial tactics businesses are increasingly facing

Prosecutors who are looking for an easy “win” know that businesses roll over. A public raid on its offices, or an indictment of its officers, can destroy a business’s reputation and viability. That makes the owners easy to intimidate into a plea bargain.

If they choose to fight, they face the full wrath and fury of the feds. In the Gibson raids, the SWAT teams were deployed even though Gibson had offered its full cooperation to investigators. Such raids are increasingly used to intimidate citizens under suspicion. The orchid importer, a 65-year-old with Parkinson’s, was shoved against a wall by armed officers in flak jackets, frisked, and forced into a chair without explanation while his home was searched

The government also attempts to get low-level employees to “finger” their bosses. For example, the feds threatened Gibson employees with long prison sentences. This is not a search for truth, but an immoral attempt at extortion to win convictions. Investigators examine the lives of “little fish” and use minor, unrelated violations (smoking a joint, or exaggerating income on a loan application) to pressure them to back the government’s case against their employers. Mobsters have experience with threats like this, but a secretary or an accountant is scared to death by the threat of prosecution.

A favorite ploy of prosecutors in these cases is to charge defendants with false statements based on their answers to the investigators. The sentence for this can be five years in prison. No recording is made of the interviews — in fact, the feds prohibit taping the interviews — and the agents are not stenographers. They cannot possibly recall the exact wording of the questions and the answers. Yet after the interview, they will produce a “transcript” replete with quotes throughout. And if a witness says he did not actually say what the agent put in quotes, it is the witness’s word against a fine, upstanding federal agent’s. Staring at a five-year sentence will get most people to say whatever the government wants them to.

The feds also pile up charges. According to Juszkiewicz, the Justice Department warned Gibson that each instance of shipping a guitar from its facility would bring an added charge of obstruction of justice. Prosecutors routinely add extra counts to stack potential prison sentences higher. For instance, faxing invoices for the wood would be charged as wire fraud. Depositing the check for the sale of the guitars would be money laundering. The CEO’s telling the press he is innocent would bring charges of fraud or stock manipulation. The intent is to threaten such long sentences that the targets plead guilty rather than risk decades in prison.

Prosecutors further tighten the screws by seizing the assets of the company, a tactic once used against pirates and drug lords but now routinely used to prosecute white-collar crimes. The federal agents seized six guitars and several pallets of ebony during their initial 2009 raid against Gibson. Federal law allows assets to be seized not just from convicted criminals, but also from those never charged. Owners must prove that the forfeited property was obtained legally; otherwise, the government can keep it. That gives the government incredible leverage, because without the seized inventory and bank accounts, the business will most likely go under. How can Gibson make guitars if the wood is being held by the government? How can it service customers when the government took its computers as evidence? How can it pay lawyers when its bank accounts were seized? Asset forfeitures bring to mind a similar twist on the law uttered by the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland: “Sentence first, verdict afterwards.”

Bank of America May Be Screwing Up Foreclosures, But At Least They Did Not Send in a SWAT Team

I am sure everyone is resting easier now that the government has taken over all student loan activity.  Now we won't see any of that abusive behavior by private lenders.  Ha ha, just kidding.  Don't get behind on your government student loans! Via Radley Balko (Updates:  Still bizarre the DOE has this kind of firepower, but DOE says its a criminal / fraud case, not a payment issue.)

Kenneth Wright does not have a criminal record and he had no reason to believe a S.W.A.T team would be breaking down his door at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

"I look out of my window and I see 15 police officers," Wright said.

Wright came downstairs in his boxer shorts as the officers team barged through his front door. Wright said an officer grabbed him by the neck and led him outside on his front lawn.

"He had his knee on my back and I had no idea why they were there," Wright said.

According to Wright, officers also woke his three young children ages 3, 7, and 11, and put them in a Stockton police patrol car with him. Officers then searched his house.

As it turned out, the person law enforcement was looking for was not there - Wright's estranged wife.

"They put me in handcuffs in that hot patrol car for six hours, traumatizing my kids," Wright said.

Wright said he later went to the mayor and Stockton Police Department, but the City of Stockton had nothing to do with Wright's search warrant.

The U.S. Department of Education issued the search and called in the S.W.A.T for his wife's defaulted student loans.

Support The Intrusive State. Buy an Audi

Am I the only one who is wildly less likely to buy an Audi after Sunday?   Advertising is often about image.  Frankly, almost none of the ads yesterday addressed their product's or service's value propositions in any real way.  They are trying to connect their product with images and emotions - Coke has always been great at that.  Beer commercials always try to connect their product with, well, sex with hot women.  This is pretty traditional for beer, though less so for ISP hosting until GoDaddy came along.

So now "Audi" has been permanently tied up in my mind with intrusive state control and loss of individual liberty.   Perhaps they were trying to be funny, but I really got the impression they were more than half serious, maybe because several of the examples (composting, light bulbs) are real issues subject to state control even in parts of this country.

Update: Obama appointee expresses need for SWAT teams in neighborhoods to enforce energy efficiency.

Mistaken Identity

I guess its lucky they didn't send the SWAT team in for her, as she might be dead now:

[Victoria] Aguayo has filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court, after she was arrested, indicted, and nearly prosecuted for her "role" in the infamous "Desert Divas" prostitution ring.

One problem: Aguayo was not a "desert diva" and the evidence suggesting she was is laughable at best.

On one of the "Desert Divas'" many Web sites, the agency advertised an "escort" named "Tia." "Tia" is described on the site as being "thin, white, and blonde" and has a tattoo on her stomach that is clearly visible in the topless photo of the "diva" Aguayo's lawyer was kind enough to send New Times.

Phoenix Police Detective Christie Hein identified Aguayo as "Tia" based on the photo on the Web site when she arrested her on August 28, 2008, the lawsuit claims.

We've seen pictures of both "Tia" and Aguayo and we gotta say if Aguayo can be identified as "thin, white, and blonde," so can Aretha Franklin.

Aguayo is -- to put it politely -- more of a "plus-sized" woman, she's black, and is missing the tattoo that is so clearly visible in the photo of "Tia" on the "Desert Diva" Web site.

Simple, um, mistake, right?

After being arrested, Aguayo spent nearly two months in jail before she was granted a supervised release pending an upcoming trial.

While she was in the clink, Aguayo lost custody of her daughter, Jasmine, and has since been unable to get her back.

Make Sure You Don't Catch More than The Limit...

...because the US Fish and Wildlife service has a SWAT team and is not afraid to use it.   Yet another heavily armed government team making sure our nation does not teeter over the brink of anarchy.  Because if everyone were allowed to freely import orchids, our civil society would come to an end.  Fortunately at least one such miscreant was thrown in jail for a well-deserved two years for having the gall not to fill out his import paperwork correctly on otherwise legal orchids.  Thank god Fish and Game had a SWAT team -- who knows what kind of violence 66-year-old orchid terrorists are capable of.   I sure hope I filled out my clock importation paperwork correctly.

For His Own Good

The government claims that it is important to crack down on gambling because people who gamble might do themselves financial harm.  Of course, just like the teenager who is thrown in jail because it is better for him than smoking marijuana, so goes the case of Salvatore Culosi:

"¦ Salvatore Culosi "¦ was a 37-year old optometrist in the
Washington, D.C. suburb of Fairfax, Virginia. According to friends,
Culosi was a wealthy, self-made man. He was easygoing and friendly, a
guy who enjoyed his success.

He was also a small-time gambler. Culosi and his friends
regularly met at bars in the area to watch sports, and frequently
wagered on the outcomes of games. The wagers weren't insignificant "”
$50, $100, sometimes more on a given afternoon. But the small circle of
friends also had the means to back up their wagers. No one was betting
the mortgage, here"¦

Fairfax police detective David J. Baucom met Culosi in a bar
one evening last October, befriended him, and was soon making wagers
himself"¦ Baucom began upping the ante, encouraging Culosi to wager
larger sums than what the friends were used to"¦

Baucom eventually encouraged Culosi to wager at least $2,000
in a single day, the lower threshold under which Culosi could be
charged under state law with "conducting an illegal gambling
operation." On January 24 of this year, Detective Baucom assembled the
Fairfax County SWAT team, and marched off to Culosi's home to arrest
him.

According to press accounts, police affidavits, and the
resulting investigation by the Fairfax prosecutor's office, Baucom
called Culosi that evening, and told him he'd be by to collect his
winnings. With the SWAT team at the ready just behind him, Baucom
waited outside Culosi's home in an SUV. As Culosi emerged from the
doorway, clad only in a t-shirt and jeans, SWAT officer Deval Bullock's
finger apparently slipped to the trigger of his Heckler & Koch MP5
semiautomatic weapon, already aimed at the unarmed Culosi.

The gun fired, releasing a bullet that entered Culosi's side,
then ripped through his chest and struck his heart, killing him
instantly.

This is Happening Way Too Often

Police are getting way too aggressive with SWAT teams conducting raids for minor drug offenses.  Here is another story from Houston, via Tom Kirkendall:

Based on the evidence in the trash, a regional SWAT team arrived at
the home. Police say they knocked, waited 30 seconds, and then broke in
with guns and a concussion grenade. The house suffered $5,000 damage
and one officer shot and killed Margot's golden lab, Shadow, when
police say it charged toward one of the officers. What did officers
find inside?

"A joint half the size of my pinky fingernail and then one about
this big," she said, showing a length on her finger. "And not anywhere
near this big around."

We have the same problem with our egomaniacal sheriff in Phoenix.