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Posts tagged La Pine

The Show Pony

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.

Law enforcement

Cops in America are heavily armed and trained to be bullies, and they routinely hurt people who pose no serious threat to anyone. People who complain about this kind of rough handling are treated like trash, as if any level of intimidation and violence whatsoever were obviously legitimate, and the victims are to blame for provoking whatever they get. Cops in America are also professional liars. They lie to obtain confessions; they lie to obtain consent for searches; they lie to intimidate; they lie to lull people into a false sense of security. They also lie repeatedly and extensively to carry on investigations, which is constantly necessary in the effort to enforce drug laws: since the so-called crime of selling and using drugs involves only willing parties, there’s no victim to file a complaint, so narcs have to lie and pose and infiltrate in order to even discover where drugs are being sold and by whom.

In La Pine, Oregon, here is how the DEA and the local narcs recently worked together to seize evidence from two people for a federal drug case without identifying themselves as cops, affording any opportunity to consult a lawyer, or even going so far as to get a warrant or talk to a judge.

On December 18, 2004, Ascension Alverez-Tejeda and his girlfriend were stopped at a traffic light near La Pine Oregon, and when the light turned green, the car in front of them stalled. Alverez-Tejeda stopped in time but a pickup truck behind him rear-ended him. When he got out to look at his bumper, the police showed up and arrested the truck driver for drinking and driving. The cops then convinced Alverez-Tejeda and his girlfriend to go to a nearby parking lot, ordered them out of their car and into in the back of the cop car for processing. While they were in the cruiser, a person jumped in their car and took off. The cops ordered the pair out and set off in full pursuit up the road. A few minutes later, the stolen car comes flying back down the road with the police cruiser in pursuit. The pursuing officer returns alone with the woman’s purse, telling the duo that the carjacker thrown it out the car window and escaped. The woman is so upset she hurls and the police put the distraught couple up in a motel.

But it was all a set up worthy of David Mamet. DEA agents were tracking a drug gang and had bought drugs out of the car months earlier, though not when Alverez-Tejeda was there. Using wiretaps and surveillance, the DEA learned that Alverez-Tejeda was using the leader’s car to transport illicit drugs. The agents then decided to stage something, perhaps even a carjacking, in order to seize the drugs without tipping off the conspirators. They never consulted a judge, but every person in the story, other than Alverez-Tejeda and his girlfriend, was a cop of some sort.

Once they got the car, the agents got a search warrant without telling the judge about the caper and seized cocaine and methamphetamines, as well as property belonging to Alverez-Tejeda and his girlfriend.

— Ryan Singel, Wired Blogs (2007-06-08): Appeals Court Rules Cops Can Steal Cars and Lie to Victims To Conduct a Warrantless Search

And here’s what happened when they took this evidence to court:

The government indicted Alverez-Tejeda but the district court in Washington found that the caper violated the Fourth Amendment, thus making the drugs inadmissable in court. The government appealed.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s decision Friday, finding that this police escapade was legal since the cops had probable cause already to seize and search the car, thanks to the vehicle exception to the Fourth Amendment created by the courts during the War on Drugs. Therefore, the court found, the police are allowed much latitude in how they seize the car and arrest the driver. The tap was considered only a minimal use of force, and the fake chase wasn’t considered to have put any civilians lives in danger.

The government here certainly had important reasons for employing this unusual procedure in seizing the car. First, the agents wanted to stop the drugs before they reached their ultimate destination — a patently important goal. Second, they wanted to protect the anonymity of the ongoing investigation — another vital objective.

— Ryan Singel, Wired Blogs (2007-06-08): Appeals Court Rules Cops Can Steal Cars and Lie to Victims To Conduct a Warrantless Search

To recap, two people who did absolutely nothing to violate anyone else’s rights or hurt anyone against their will, had their car rammed and then stolen. The narcs knew about the deliberate ramming and the theft but they lied about them–because, after all, they ordered them. They used this lie to seize property and obtain evidence without giving their victims any chance to assert their rights (since they were lied to, they had no idea that a search or seizure was even taking place), and without obtaining a warrant or submitting to judicial oversight of any kind. The narcs feel that they need to be able to do this kind of thing in order to do their jobs effectively, since snitch anonymity, which actually has nothing to do with privacy and everything to do with systematically lying about who they are and what they do, is an essential tool in their efforts to lock harmless people in cages for the next several years of their lives. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, meanwhile, stands by and smilingly waves them on, once again under the excuse of necessity.

To prove, that these Sort of policed Societies are a Violation offered to Nature, and a Constraint upon the human Mind, it needs only to look upon the sanguinary Measures, and Instruments of Violence which are every where used to support them. Let us take a Review of the Dungeons, Whips, Chains, Racks, Gibbets, with which every Society is abundantly stored, by which hundreds of Victims are annually offered up to support a dozen or two in Pride and Madness, and Millions in an abject Servitude, and Dependence. There was a Time, when I looked with a reverential Awe on these Mysteries of Policy; but Age, Experience, and Philosophy have rent the Veil; and I view this Sanctum Sanctorum, at least, without any enthusiastick Admiration. I acknowledge indeed, the Necessity of such a Proceeding in such Institutions; but I must have a very mean Opinion of Institutions where such Proceedings are necessary.

— Edmund Burke (1757): A Vindication of Natural Society

So who are the real criminals here?

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