Another Victory Against Civil Forfeiture Abuse
|July 8, 2003||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Citizen Gets Compensation from Guilty Government
DRUG WAR TASK FORCE SETTLES RAINBOW VALLEY CIVIL RIGHTS CLAIM
Another victory against forfeiture law abuse!
Judith Roderick, an Olympia tax consultant and grandmother, agreed to settle her federal civil rights claim against Thurston County, Thurston County Narcotics Task Force and former detective Anthony McCormick for $100,000. The announcement was made by her attorneys, Hugh J. McGavick and Shawn Newman.
Ms. Roderick was charged with money laundering by prosecutors for advising Gideon Israel on placing Rainbow Valley in trust. Although she was never convicted of any crime, task force detectives seized the assets of her small business and arrested her at the airport as she returned from a vacation. The charges were based on information provided by former detective McCormick and a paid informant, John Maloney.
Ms. Roderick sued in federal court, alleging violation of her civil rights, malicious prosecution, unlawful arrest and unlawful imprisonment. On March 2nd, Judge Robert J. Bryan, U.S. District Judge, issued an order clearing the way for those claims to proceed to jury trial. Embarrassed, and facing public humiliation for its arrogant actions, the “task force” then tried to avoid a trial and proposed a cash settlement. The settlement, entered on March 21, represents the end of the Rainbow Valley litigation.
Attorney Hugh McGavick of Olympia said that “This case illustrates the adage that the end – seizing someone’s property – justifies any means, even if it takes disregarding basic civil rights.” But this time, the government was foiled.
Co-counsel Shawn Newman added that “We have a Kafka-esque situation in which the government can take your property without a conviction. Where the government and the paid informants are like bounty hunters who share a percentage of the proceeds.”
Measures are pending in Congress and state legislatures to reform civil forfeiture laws. In Washington, groups such as the ACLU and Libertarian Party supported SB 5935 sponsored by Senator Dow Constantine, D-King, to make it harder for police to confiscate private property. Voters in Oregon and Utah overwhelmingly passed citizen initiatives last November reforming civil forfeiture laws. Oregon’s Measure 3 calls for a conviction before confiscation, took effect in December. In Washington state, a diverse coalition, called Liberty Initiatives, is working on an initiative which would require conviction before forfeiture. For more on that program, see http://www.libertyinitiatives.org
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