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The Show Pony

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 17 years ago, in 2007, on the World Wide Web.

Last week I posted about this recent case in Oregon, in which the narcs — bullies by profession and liars by trade — decided to seize some evidence of drug sales between consenting adults, without a warrant, by ramming a car and then stealing it off the street:

In a strongly worded order last year, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Whaley tossed out evidence seized from a car driven by Ascencion Alverez-Tejeda, charged with three felony counts of distributing cocaine and methamphetamine in Eastern Washington for a Mexican drug ring.

On June 8, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled Whaley, ruling that the search was legal but expressing reservations about the ruse used by the region’s Drug Enforcement Agency.

The case includes grand jury testimony that DEA agents have used similar tactics on other occasions — raising questions by judges and defense lawyers about how far law enforcement officers can go to mislead suspects and act without a warrant. The DEA, which waited three days after the seizure to get a search warrant, is defending the conduct of its agents.

In his April 2006 order, Whaley said the DEA engaged in shocking and outrageous conduct and committed criminal acts against Alverez-Tejeda, 35, who was living in Irrigon, Ore., and Diana Maria Volerio-Perez, his 30-year old girlfriend, when they were detained and searched without a warrant on Dec. 18, 2004.

In that incident, DEA agents staged a car accident near Redmond, Ore., ran a truck into the car Alverez-Tejeda was driving, pretended to be Deschutes County Sheriff’s deputies and drove off at high speed in Alverez-Tejeda’s car while falsely telling him it had just been randomly stolen.

As a result of the bogus theft of their car, the couple became victims of a crime, Whaley said.

The agents’ actions violated the Fourth Amendment and so tainted the case that drug evidence — two kilograms of cocaine and three pounds of methamphetamine — later found in the car should be suppressed, Whaley said.

U.S. Attorney James McDevitt filed an appeal on May 5, 2006, which stayed the case until the ruling earlier this month.

Now that the 9th Circuit has overturned Whaley’s order, a trial for Alverez-Tejeda will be scheduled.

— Karen Dorn Steele and Kevin Graman, The Spokesman-Review (2007-06-18): Appeals court upholds DEA ruse

The Spokesman-Review story has a lot more on the details of the case. I mention it here, though, because it alerted me to this:

In oral arguments in Seattle in April, a three-judge panel of 9th Circuit judges peppered U.S. Attorney Russell Smoot of Spokane with questions as he argued that the agents’ tactics were reasonable.

This is the Keystone Cops case, said 9th District Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, calling the agents’ ruse a hairbrained scheme.

But Kozinski, writing for the panel, said the ruse was not unconstitutional.

The agents’ actions were reasonable in light of their vital interest in seizing the drugs and not exposing their investigation, Kozinski wrote.

— Karen Dorn Steele and Kevin Graman, The Spokesman-Review (2007-06-18): Appeals court upholds DEA ruse

Please note that the author of the majority opinion here is Judge Alex Kozinski. When he’s not busy writing opinions giving the narcs King’s X to cause auto collisions, impersonate local police officers, use their assistance to collision victims as a pretext for stealing cars, and all without a warrant of any kind, Judge Kozinski gives interviews to Reason magazine, who described him, not so long ago, as one of the most libertarian judges in the country.

Were you counting on the courts to uphold even minimal protections for civil liberties? Don’t.

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