A Measure of Justice for Home Invasion Victims

by Will

Liberty Minute October 3 2014

Denver resident Daniel Martinez and his sons were gathered in the living room watching television when the home invasion took place. Five armor-clad berserkers carrying rifles beat down their door and attacked everybody within their field of vision.

One of the invaders grabbed Jason Martinez, a small 16-year-old boy, shoved his head through a window, then dragged him outside, threw him to the sidewalk, and beat him. Nathan Martinez was punched in the face, as was Daniel. His son, Daniel Martinez III, was put into a choke hold and body-slammed to the ground.

The assailants, predictably, were police investigating allegations of drug trafficking and prostitution. The officers staged the 11:00 PM raid on the uncorroborated word of two suspects. They knew before kicking in the door that they were about to lay siege to an innocent family. Yet they carried out the attack, then demanded proof that the victims were not illegal immigrants. They then fabricated cover charges and suborned perjury in order to justify their criminal actions after the fact. Two of the sons were acquitted of the spurious charges.

A jury awarded the family $1.8 million in damages – but the perpetrators escaped criminal and civil prosecution because of the specious doctrine of “qualified immunity.”

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. 

The Criminal Prosecutors of Flathead County

by Will

Liberty Minute October 2 2014

What you just heard was first- person evidence of a criminal conspiracy by the Flathead County, Montana Attorney’s Office and the Northeast Montana Drug Task Force. The woman in that recording, Kristina Corey, an informant, was married to a man who was being threatened with a twenty-year prison term if he chose to defend himself in court against drug-related charges. Deputy McKeag Johns – who threatened to take the couple’s children -- explained to Mrs. Corey that the DA’s office was punishing her family because it didn’t like her attorney, Timothy Baldwin.

Baldwin’s supposed offense, Johns explained, was that he refused to cooperate with the DA’s office by arranging plea bargains, choosing instead to fight the charges against them. When Baldwin and his associates publicized the DA’s misconduct, the charges against his clients were dropped.  The Montana Attorney General’s office has declined to investigate Flathead County Attorney Dan Corrigan.

Criminal misconduct of this kind is ubiquitous in the so-called War on Drugs.

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.

FBI Commissar vs. The Free Market

by Will

Liberty Minute October 1 2014

Reacting to consumer concerns about privacy, Apple and Google have enhanced the security features on their cell phones. The new privacy protections will make it difficult, if not impossible, for law enforcement officials to have access to data stored on the phones without the owner’s consent.

This welcome innovation follows a recent unanimous Supreme Court ruling that police must have warrants before they can search cell phones or similar devices.

All of this is firmly in the best traditions of American capitalism and due process: The public has understandably become concerned about pervasive warrantless eavesdropping by government agencies, and two of the biggest companies have responded to market demand.

Speaking from a perspective more appropriate to totalitarian East Germany, FBI Director James Comey has denounced Apple and Google for serving their customers, rather than the government that seeks to regiment their lives. People who buy the new phones, protests Commissar Comey, might place themselves “beyond the law” – by which expression be presumably means beyond the reach of illegal scrutiny by lawless agencies like the one over which he presides.

Comey says he is consulting with the companies in order to straighten out their thinking, a gesture that displays a genuinely totalitarian mindset.

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. 

From Imperial Presidency to Military Junta?

by Will

Liberty Minute September 30 2014

Republican Congressman Dan Lamborn of Colorado is upset with the Obama administration’s new war in Iraq and Syria, and he claims that his view is shared by several high-ranking military officials.

According to Lamborn, “A lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes, saying, `Hey, if you disagree with the policy that the White House has given you, let’s have a resignation.’” Were disaffected generals to resign en masse, Lamborn insists, they would “go out in a blaze of glory.”

Resignations in protest of an unwise policy would certainly be welcome. However, Lamborn maintains that the chief objection is not that the war is being carried out without the constitutionally mandated formal declaration, or that it is strategically unwise. Instead, military leaders are reportedly frustrated by the administration’s claim that the campaign will be limited to airstrikes and not include deployment of ground forces.

Congress has abdicated its constitutional war-making powers to the executive branch, whether the White House is occupied by a Republican or a Democrat. Republican Hawks are now looking to cede policymaking control to the military, rather than working to reclaim their proper role.

Living under an Imperial Presidency is bad enough – but replacing it with Praetorianism, or military rule, would be even worse.

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. 

SWAT Raid on a Yard Sale: A Typical Day in the Soyuz

by Will

Liberty Minute September 29 2014

If Troy Wheeler really was a dangerous fugitive who was believed to be heavily armed, why did police choose to arrest him in a way that put innocent lives at risk?

Wheeler was arrested by the Ada Metro SWAT team at a charity yard sale in Meridian, Idaho on September 22. The event was entirely routine, and Wheeler did nothing to provoke attention – until a throng of camouflage-clad, masked figures suddenly materialized in their midst, pointing guns and barking orders.

Wheeler was thrown to the ground and handcuffed, along with a woman who simply happened to be standing next to him when the SWAT team arrived. The police described Wheeler, who was as a suspect in a “major narcotics investigation.” Boise PD spokeswoman Lynn Hightower insisted that the SWAT raid was necessary because Wheeler was “known to be heavily armed and the arrest was high-risk.”

The raiders weren’t pursuing a bank robber, suspected murderer, or terrorist. They were serving an ordinary arrest warrant that could have been executed without the high-risk theatrics. But that’s not how things are done, now that we’ve become a country where a SWAT raid at a yard sale doesn’t provoke public concern.

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.

How the Feds Corrupted the Police

by Will

Liberty Minute September 26 2014

There are more than 17,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, all of which are either operated by the federal government or subsidized by it. With federal subsidies come federal controls. This is why most sheriffs and police administrators resent many kinds of federal involvement – such as “consent decrees” that are imposed because of abuse or institutional corruption.

However, federal involvement in local law enforcement abets and rewards corruption. The Associated Press reports that dozens of departments subject to consent decrees are still eligible to receive military hardware through the Pentagon’s 1033 program.

Those police departments can also participate in the so-called “equitable sharing” program, in which money and other property are seized from people who are not convicted of criminal offenses. The confiscated property is then turned over to federal control, which prevents the victims from seeking redress through state courts.  The Feds keep a small portion of the plunder and allow local police to keep the rest.

The FBI helped police in Tacoma, Washington to obtain fake cellphone towers that redirect phone signals and other data. Police were required by the FBI to refuse public information requests about the program.

Some dare call this arrangement a form of racketeering.

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. 

Sheriff Raney: "Trust Us" with Military Gear

by Will

Liberty Minute September 24 2014

Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney took to the editorial page of the Idaho Statesman newspaper to assure local residents that his department has taken note of public concerns regarding police militarization. Within a few days, Raney took to the airwaves to condemn a proposed bill that would rein in – however tentatively – the transfer of battlefield weaponry to local police.

The measure in question is co-sponsored by Idaho Republican Congressman Raul Labrador and Georgia Democrat Hank Johnson. It would place modest restrictions on the Pentagon’s 1033 program, through which armored vehicles, grenade launchers, drones, and other war-fighting assets are provided to police. More importantly, I would remove a requirement that agencies receiving those assets use them within a year – a provision that creates a perverse incentive for unnecessary paramilitary operations by police.

In an interview with Boise’s CBS affiliate, Raney asserted that the bill “is bred out of ignorance.” Raney has criticized the grotesque militarized police response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, but insists that he and his subordinates, unlike their comrades in Missouri, can be trusted to use their own Pentagon-provided hardware more responsibly.

“This is Ada County where we use those tools to keep people safe,” Raney insists, echoing assurances offered by kindred officials elsewhere – including Ferguson, Missouri.

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. 

Police as a "Paramilitary" Body

by Will

Liberty Minute September 24 2014

 

We know how police officials describe the role of law enforcement for public consumption – but what do they say when they think the public isn’t listening?

 

During a September 17 Indianapolis City Council budget meeting, Police Chief Rick Hite offered a fascinating – and disturbing – glimpse of the institutional mindset of his department:

 

 “We have historically been a paramilitary organization, and we serve whoever sits in that chair, regardless of race, gender, creed, or political party. I don’t know what we would do if we had to go to battle, and … had to make a determination, based on past practices, [of] whether or not we wanted to go into battle. … I am a soldier in an army. We serve you in that way.”

 

Chief Hite’s comments were offered in response to a statement by Councilor Leroy Robinson, who had voted against a $29 million city tax increase intended to pay for 300 new police officers. Robinson pointed out that he couldn’t in good conscience support a tax increase when hundreds of millions of dollars were being spent on pet projects to benefit politically connected interests.

 

Apparently, Chief Hite sees nothing wrong with fleecing the public on behalf of the political class – as long as the Praetorians get their share.

 

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. 

Obama: The View from the (Relatively) Honest Left

by Will

Liberty Minute September 23 2014

 During a recent interview, left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore shared what he would say if he had a personal audience with Barack Obama: “When the history is written of this era, this is how you'll be remembered – he was the first black president.” This is “not a bad accomplishment,” Moore continued, “but that's it.” Speaking from a progressive point of view, Moore described the Obama presidency as “a big disappointment.”

 Moore doesn't disguise his political leanings in his films, the most notable of which is “Fahrenheit 9/11,” a relentlessly critical examination of the presidency of George W. Bush and the Iraq war. He has criticized Obama for renewing US involvement in Iraq – but that's not his only complaint.

 During his 2008 campaign, Obama was expansively critical of the Bush administration's foreign policy and its servile posture toward Wall Street. He also condemned the consolidation of power in the executive branch, the practice of torture, indefinite detention of Gitmo inmates, and warrantless surveillance. As president he has continued those policies, expanded them, or -- in the case of torture -- condoned those who carried them out.

 Whatever else can be said about Moore, he's among the handful of leftists who are honest enough to admit that Obama is not materially different from his predecessor.

  Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.

The "Restitution" Racket

by Will

Liberty Minute September 22 2014

 

When someone is found guilty of a crime – that is, a deliberate offense that injures the person or property of another – justice requires restitution. How does one make restitution for a victimless offense? 

William Esbensen, former owner of the 45th Parallel medical marijuana cooperative in Ontario, Oregon,  was convicted of “racketeering” under a law that was no longer in effect. He was sentenced to two years' probation and ordered to pay more than $18,000 in “restitution” costs to the Malheur County DA's office, which was identified in the sentencing order as Esbensen's “victim.”

No evidence was presented that Esbensen did any harm to anybody in the Malheur County DA's office, which funded the prosecution using money that had been confiscated from the defendant.

In addition to fines, probation fees, and restitution charges, Esbensen was informed that “The court may increase the total amount owed by adding collection fees and other assessments. These fees and assessments may be added without further notice to the defendant and without further court order.”

All of this was imposed on someone whose supposed crimes had injured nobody – and thus couldn't pay restitution to an actual victim. And this is utterly typical of the operations of the cynical racket we call the criminal justice system.

 

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.

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