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Sat Jan 26, 2013, 12:39 AM

Triumphant motel owner slams Carmen Ortiz

http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2013/01/triumphant_motel_owner_slams_carmen_ortiz

Triumphant motel owner slams Carmen Ortiz
By Erin Smith / Boston Herald

A Tewksbury motel owner who just beat back U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s three-year bid to seize his business has become the latest critic to accuse the Hub’s top fed of prosecutorial bullying.

“I don’t think she should have the power she has to pull this stuff on people,” Russ Caswell, owner of the Motel Caswell, told the Herald last night after a judge’s ruling in his favor.

The feds first tried to grab Caswell’s property in 2009 under drug seizure laws, citing numerous drug busts at the motel. Caswell’s defense team argued that he was not responsible for what guests did. And his lawyers found there was actually more drug activity at nearby businesses, and theorized the government was going after Caswell, who has no criminal record, because his mortgage-free property is worth more than $1 million.

“It’s bullying by the government. And it’s a huge waste of taxpayer money,” said Caswell, whose father built the motel in 1955. “This has been a huge financial and physical toll. It’s thrown our whole family into turmoil. You work for all your life to pay for something and these people come along and think it’s theirs. It’s just wrong. The average person can’t afford to fight this.”

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 02:12 AM

1. Caswell's lawyers were right about this being a blatant property grab by the Feds:

From WBUR's coverage:

http://www.wbur.org/2013/01/24/tewksbury-motel-foreclosure


...During the four-day trial in November, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz released a statement saying her office wanted to send a message by going after the motel. But just up the street from the mom-and-pop-run Motel Caswell, the Motel 6, Walmart and Home Depot had all experienced a similar rate of drug crimes, according to Caswell’s attorneys, without the government going after them.

“I mean, the government’s got all the money in the world to throw at these things and they just bully people is what it is,” Caswell said. “And it’s completely wrong. It’s just not American.”

The idea to go after the Motel Caswell sprung from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the trial revealed. The DEA has an agent who testified his job is to seek out targets for forfeiture by watching television news and reading newspapers. When he finds a property where drug crimes occur he goes to the Registry of Deeds. Finding the Motel Caswell had no mortgage and was worth almost $1.5 million, the DEA teamed up with the Tewksbury Police, who were offered 80 percent of the taking, the agent testified...


GRRRRR!

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Response to friendly_iconoclast (Reply #1)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 06:10 AM

4. wow. so wrong. drug war needs to go. so wrong, on so many levels. particularly considering

 

how the financial industry is implicated in laundering drug money and the intelligence services in bringing drugs into the country, and manufacturing them.

so so wrong.

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 03:33 AM

2. whoa...

it's, well, criminal.

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 03:51 AM

3. Carmen Ortiz's Very Bad, Awful Month

 

By Charles P. Pierce
Esquire
January 25, 2013

It has not been the best 2013 so far for Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney in Boston and once-rising political star in the firmament of the Commonwealth (God save it!). First, her office relentlessly pursues Internet activist Aaron Swartz for a crime that the purported "victim" said was no big deal, guaranteeing that any attempt she makes at running for anything ever will have every hacker in the universe attached to its hindquarters. (To say nothing of congresscritters , who are drafting bills in response, and retired federal judges.) And now, as she's still being fitted for the role of Inspector Javert, another one of her signature hardball prosecutions blows up in her face.

The feds first tried to grab Caswell's property in 2009 under drug seizure laws, citing numerous drug busts at the motel. Caswell's defense team argued that he was not responsible for what guests did. And his lawyers found there was actually more drug activity at nearby businesses, and theorized the government was going after Caswell, who has no criminal record, because his mortgage-free property is worth more than $1 million...In a written decision after a November trial, U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Gail Dein dismissed the government's forfeiture action, ruling yesterday that Caswell, "who was trying to eke out an income from a business located in a drug-infested area that posed great risks to the safety of him and his family," took all reasonable steps to prevent crime. "The Government's resolution of the crime problem should not be to simply take his Property," Dein said in her decision.

Civil forfeiture is one of the truly odious products of the war on certain kind of drugs, wide open for corruption and for prosecutorial flexing. If it is allowed to exist at all, the whole system should be re-examined and placed under strict regulation and oversight. Russ Caswell got lucky. He had good lawyers. If nothing else, the whole thing should be a reason to examine the powers we so willingly cede to our prosecutors in order to keep us "safe" from the many vague threats that the government finds so helpful.

More: http://www.esquire.com/_mobile/blogs/politics/More_bad_News_For_Carmen_Ortiz

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 11:02 AM

5. Followup: Carmen Ortiz said her office is weighing an appeal

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said her office is weighing an appeal against a Tewksbury motel owner who criticized her for prosecutorial bullying last week after he won his battle in the feds’ three-year bid to seize his business, citing drug busts on the property.

“This case was strictly a law-enforcement effort to crack down on what was seen as a pattern of using the motel to further the commission of drug crimes for nearly three decades,” Ortiz said in a statement. “We are weighing our options with respect to appeal.”

Read the rest: http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2013/01/ortiz_motel_owner_we%E2%80%99re_not_done_yet

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 11:07 AM

6. I once asked an attorney I knew involved in seizures if there was a conflict of interest.


Politely, inquiringly. She exploded in a rage and hissed that only she and her boss understood seizure laws and turned away.

She dideth protest too much.

A bit of Googling demonstrated that she had been sanctioned by a federal judge for lying to the court that she had taken no notes in a 3-hr interview with a gov't witness they used to try to railroad an accused drug dealer. The guy (who probably was guilty to one degree or another) got off as a result of prosecutorial misconduct.

She's still with a federal prosecutor's office last I checked.

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 11:18 AM

7. OMG--I did some research on CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE.

Excuse me for yelling, but the nature and extent of what has been happening since 1984 is unbelievably frightening, especially in some states. There is a link on this web page for a report called "Policing for Profit" that gives a clear, detailed picture of the results of this practice and breaks it down by state:
http://www.ij.org/policing-for-profit-the-abuse-of-civil-asset-forfeiture-4

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Response to factsarenotfair (Reply #7)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 11:20 AM

8. Thank you for the link! n/t

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Response to OneGrassRoot (Reply #8)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 11:39 AM

9. You're welcome.

I had some vague knowledge and sense of foreboding about the practice, but had no idea of what it's doing to police departments.

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Response to factsarenotfair (Reply #7)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 11:42 AM

10. There was a case where they tried to seize inherited land under a claim of "bought with drug profits

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Response to hobbit709 (Reply #10)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 11:53 AM

11. If they took to heart the quote "Behind every great fortune is a crime"

then we could seize almost all the property of the wealthy!

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