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Texas DA Offered Leniency In Exchange For Cash

Texas DA Offered Leniency In Exchange For Cash

A Texas district attorney’s office whose county in known as a key drug-trafficking route faces accusations that it repeatedly allowed suspected drug runners and money launderers to avoid charges or face minimal sentencing if they gave their cash to prosecutors.

The result was that authorities have collected more than $800,000 in less than a year with a practice that basically allows suspects to buy their way out of charges or jail time. The money from those and other defendants increased the DA’s forfeiture account, easing pressures from a tight budget.

The practice has become the focus of a federal criminal investigation.  A former auditor testified that at least some of the seized assets were used to pay for campaign materials, parades and gifts.

One example authorities uncovered was the case of a man accused of transportation 15 kilos of cocaine and more than $80,000 in cash. He was put on probation after forfeiting the money to the district attorney.

But it gets worse. The Shelby County officials are also part of a criminal investigation and class action lawsuit for claims they used a drug enforcement program as a pre-text to stop black motorists and threaten them with money laundering charges if they didn’t forfeit their cash.

Forfeitures are a common practice across the country. Law enforcement agencies often seize money or property they believe is linked to a crime. If they can prove that link in civil court then the authorities can take possession of it permanently.

But to use forfeiture as a threat, or some kind of bargaining chip in significant criminal prosecutions turns it into nothing more than a shakedown. And it creates the wrong incentives for stops as this case shows. Of course, there’s a not-so-complicated solution to the “fix” brought by increasing forfeitures by 200%: adequately fund our justice system to begin with.

 

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Photo from mikecough via flickr.

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26 comments

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7:35PM PDT on Oct 28, 2011

Taking money for leniency pretty much makes them accessories to the crime.

6:03PM PDT on Oct 28, 2011

As for Texas I am lost for words now. Kill Baby Kill and/or Pay Baby Pay!

4:19PM PDT on Oct 28, 2011

Yet another way to legalize criminal action ... for profit by forfeiture of the law. Creative!

1:31PM PDT on Oct 28, 2011

I can completely understand the siezure of assets. What I CANNOT understand is allowing the prisoner to retain any sort of control or bargaining position with those assets. Take it, sure but when you offer a reduction in time served, your are SCREAMING that power is being abused and the system is corrupt!

12:44PM PDT on Oct 28, 2011

So, people think our justice system works, do they. Well obviously it's working real well for the people in those Texas offices.

10:52AM PDT on Oct 28, 2011

We need civilian oversight for all aspects of our legal system, from the Police, Judges to the Politicians, they are all out of control.

8:59AM PDT on Oct 28, 2011

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." -- Baron John Acton

This also applies to men whose egos make them think they're great.

8:57AM PDT on Oct 28, 2011

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." -- Baron John Acton

This also applies to men whose egos make them think they're great.

8:05AM PDT on Oct 28, 2011

Equal justice for all, eh?????

7:48AM PDT on Oct 28, 2011

Too much corruption in this country. It goes from local to state to federal governments. It includes all positions, councilmen, mayors, representatives, state and US, governors, senators, heads of government agencies and is found in departments of law enforcement. It is my opinion corruption is everywhere and that is why this country is in a downhill slide.

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Great news.... sure hope that they are looking at decades of offering this help.

Texas is mind boggling....science should be about fact and not opinion.......

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