Friday, January 25, 2013

Another loss for zealot U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz

Federal judge comes to the rescue in property rights case. Carmen Ortiz should have known better.

Jon Chesto of the Boston Business Journal has the details.

Thank goodness for the Institute for Justice. The government was out to seize owner Russ Caswell's motel in Tewksbury because several unaffiliated drug deals took place. A federal Magistrate Judge, Judith Dein, thought otherwise.

Dein’s ruling today pointed to several reasons why prosecutors didn’t have the right to seize the Motel Caswell:
  • The government had identified only a limited number of qualified drug-related incidents, spread out over a 15-year period. None of the incidents — law enforcement officials eventually named 15 of them — involved Caswell or his employees, or even people that Caswell was familiar with.
  • There were essentially no efforts to work with Caswell to reduce drug crimes at the property before prosecutors moved ahead with forfeiture proceedings in 2009
  • There was no warning given to Caswell that the possibility of a property seizure even existed.
  • Caswell, who lives next door to the motel with his family, and his employees took reasonable steps to secure the property and cooperate with police.
Prosecutors had been tipped off about the motel by a federal agent whose primary job was to identify properties for forfeiture. But prosecutors maintained that this wasn’t about raising money for the government, and was instead about helping local police crack down on the drug trade.

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