Tag Archives: cops

Some Guy Asked the Cops to Send a Drug Dog to Find His Missing Heroin

It's apparently been a wild year for Joseph Murphy. The Ohio man kicked off 2017 by getting arrested outside Disney World on New Year's Day and allegedly pissing on a police officer's leg. He then slammed his Mercedes into a sign near his hometown before blowing a .121 blood alcohol content. Now, Murphy's racked up yet another run-in with the cops by dialing 911 to ask his local police department if they could help him track his stolen heroin, a Cleveland ABC affiliate reports.

According to the 911 call, Murphy apparently thought he could just phone up the police and order a drug-sniffing dog from the canine unit. A police officer working at the local Bath Township police department told News 5 Cleveland that it was "the most bizarre" call he's heard in his 41 years on the job.

"You need a police dog?" the dispatcher asked. "What's going on there?"

"She stole heroin from me," Murphy replied.

Though understandably confused about a) who "she" might be and b) why Murphy specifically requested a police dog, the local police figured the whole heroin thing merited a trip over to Murphy's place. By the time the cops arrived, he'd apparently realized that telling a police officer you had heroin on you probably isn't the best idea. So Murphy changed up his story—claiming some woman actually stole his money, not his drugs.

But that story didn't fool the cops, because a few minutes later, Murphy reportedly reached into his pants and pulled out a "brown waxy substance," which authorities presumed to be drugs. The cops then threw him in a squad car and took him to the station, where they fingerprinted and booked him before letting him head home. 

According to police, he's now looking at facing a felony drug charge.

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Former NYPD Cops Allegedly Traded Gun Licenses for Prostitutes

On Tuesday, authorities formally charged three retired NYPD officers and a former city prosecutor for helping get people gun licenses in exchange for a wide range of bribes—from cash to prostitutes to extravagant vacations, BuzzFeed News reports

The culprits allegedly worked together inside the NYPD's licensing division to run their bribery scheme from 2010 to 2016, CBS News reports. Paul Dean, a former lieutenant, and Robert Espinel, a former officer, are charged with accepting lavish bribes from "expediters" who charge people looking to speed up their firearm licensing.

Gaetano Valastro, a former NYPD detective, allegedly worked as an expediter and bribed Dean and Espinel to move the process along for his clients. Those bribes sometimes came in the form of "cash, paid vacations, personal jewelry, catered parties, guns, gun paraphernalia, and other benefits," according to federal prosecutors. According to DNAinfo, the officers also scored "food, alcohol, parties, dancers, and prostitutes" from other expediters in exchange for their services.

"The alleged corruption pervaded the license division up to its senior level," Joon Kim, acting US attorney for New York's Southern District, said Tuesday. 

John Chambers, a former New York assistant district attorney, was also charged Tuesday in the scheme. He allegedly looked to represent people who had issues with getting gun licenses and is accused of bribing David Villanueva—the guy who ran the NYPD's licensing division from 2010 to 2015, but who was arrested back in June of 2016 on corruption charges. According to the criminal complaint, Chambers offered Villanueva a fancy $8,000 watch and tickets to Broadway shows and sports games.

According to BuzzFeed News, Dean, Espinel, and Valastro are facing charges for conspiracy to commit bribery and extortion. Chambers's lawyer, Barry Slotnick, told CBS News that his client will plead not guilty to his conspiracy charges.

This is just the latest development in a long-running corruption investigation of the NYPD's licensing division, launched by the force's internal affairs department and the FBI back in 2013, according to the New York Times. The last big splash came with Villanueva's arrest in 2016, around the same time two top NYPD officers were arrested for accepting bribes in exchange for services unrelated to firearms licensing. 

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Who Are the Security Officers That Forcibly Dragged a United Airlines Passenger?

The videos depicting security officers forcibly dragging an elderly United Airlines passenger in Chicago have drawn outrage that is both widespread and entirely justified. Most of the resulting news coverage has focused, correctly, on United’s tone-deaf response and the larger question of how much power airlines wield…

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What We Know About the Teen Accused of Ambushing Cops in Miami

Just before 10 PM on Monday, a gray Dodge minivan pulled into a dark street near the Annie Coleman Gardens, a public housing complex in a predominantly poor, black neighborhood four miles east of Miami International Airport known as Brownsville. Inside, Terence White and Charles Woods, a pair of veteran Miami-Dade Police undercover detectives working a gang detail with the feds, focused their eyes on a suspicious car that had just parked there.

Suddenly, four men approached the van and at least two began shooting at the detectives, according to Miami-Dade Police. Bullets struck the front passenger and side doors, punching holes through metal and shattering the glass windows. At least one officer returned fire through the van's windshield, according to the Miami Herald.

When the smoke cleared, nearby police in a black pickup truck rushed to the scene and placed White, who had been shot in the bicep, and Woods, who was also struck, into the truck's bed. They whisked their injured colleagues to the nearby Jackson Ryder Trauma Center. But even as both officers suffered relatively minor injuries, the brazen attack set off a furious manhunt that ended early Wednesday morning with the arrest of 19-year-old Damian Antwan Thompson, an alleged "associate" of 13th Avenue Hot Boyz, a Brownsville gang that has been packing serious firepower for close to a decade.

Tangela Sears, a community activist who leads the group Parents of Murdered Kids in Miami-Dade, told me that 13th Avenue Hot Boyz and other gangs are obviously responsible for a large number of violent shootings involving adolescents in Miami's inner-city neighborhoods.

"Without a doubt, they are part of the problem," Sears said. "If you shoot at law enforcement, you will shoot at anybody. We see it everyday. I get a text every time there is a shooting."

According to Miami-Dade Police, law enforcement officials zeroed in on Thompson following several tips to the CrimeStoppers police line pointing to the accused gang banger as the shooter. Woods also identified Thompson as the assailant and said that his partner, White, had recently arrested the teen on a gun possession charge, according to the March 29 arrest report.

Thompson was apprehended at a Hyatt Hotel near the airport where cops found him hiding underneath bedsheets, according to the arrest report. Thompson allegedly yelled, "I'm going to kill both of y'all" as officers struck him to "gain compliance" until he was handcuffed. Thompson has been charged with two counts of attempted murder, battery on a police officer and resisting arrest with violence.

Check out the VICE documentary on the Black Women's Defense League in Texas.

Back in 2010, a Miami Police-led operation ended with the arrests of 14 individuals, including members of 13th Avenue and their rival gang the 13th Court Cowboys. Cops also confiscated 31 firearms, including sawed off shotguns and a TEC-9, which then-Miami-Police Chief Miguel Exposito displayed on a large table for reporters. Timothy Smith, an alleged leader of 13th Avenue, was slapped with multiple illegal firearms charges and allegedly sold 17 guns to undercover officers.

"That gang and another gang on the other side of Northwest 12th Avenue are always at each other and may be responsible for a lot of drive-by shootings that we have seen lately," said John Rivera, president of the police union representing Miami-Dade Police officers. "It is easier to buy a firearm for juveniles than it is to buy a pack of cigarettes for them. There is a proliferation of guns, especially in that general area."

It is still not clear how—or even whetherThompson is associated with any gangs. A Miami-Dade Police spokesperson did not respond to questions about his affiliation or lack thereof prior to publication. According to Miami-Dade County criminal court records, the suspect was arrested last November for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, only for the case to be dropped. Two months later, he was arrested again—this time for allegedly carrying a concealed weapon. The arresting officer: Terence White, whom Thompson acknowledged knowing while being questioned by cops early Wednesday, according to the arrest report.

According to the Herald, White was working plain-clothes duty during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade in Liberty City back in January when "an anonymous source" identified Thompson as a "wanted subject." But when White and other officers approached the teen, Thompson took off running and dropped a dark-colored 9mm Glock from his waistband, the paper reported. He is scheduled for trial on the gun charge on June 12.

"There is some belief that [Thompson] knew these were police officers and purposely shot into their vehicle," Rivera said. "This is an individual who the system hasn't done much to him. It's a free ticket for him."

While cops are inclined to point their fingers at a possible gang-banger, Thompson's quick arrest has left community activists like Sears asking why law enforcement doesn't seem to expend the same amount of police resources when black children are the victims. Between 2006 and 2016, an average of 30 youths were killed annually in Miami-Dade, according to a Miami Herald investigation last year. More than 75 percent were black.

"What is the difference between a child shot and killed in the streets with an officer hit with non-life threatening injuries?" Sears asked. "We are constantly hearing that they are not able to do these things because they need more resources. But when a cop is shot, the resources come from out of nowhere. It had a lot of families angry yesterday and this morning."

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A Man Found Five Pounds of Weed Rolled into a Giant Blunt on Daytona Beach

Jeff Stolowitz spent last Saturday morning strolling along the shore of Daytona Beach, Florida, picking up trash that was probably left behind by frat bros raging their faces off during spring break. But then he came across something strange: a ten-pound package of weed, wrapped in brown paper like a giant blunt, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

After taking a closer look at the mysterious object, he noticed a thin layer of blood coating the end of the 18-inch package.

"That's when I thought I should back up and not touch anything," Stolowitz told the Orlando Sentinel. "It was a little scary." 

Rather than try to jack the massive ganja stash, Stolowitz called the local authorities, who came by to check it out. Officials from Volusia County Beach Safety ended up testing the package's contents—which they determined was only about five pounds of weed without the water weight—and destroyed it. 

Volusia County Beach Safety captain Mike Berard told the Sentinel that whoever sent the stash out to sea had likely coated it with blood to try to throw drug-sniffing dogs off its pungent scent. The giant doobie was coated with so many barnacles that Berard and his team estimated that it had been floating around in the ocean for at least two weeks.

"This actually happens more than you think," Berard told the Sentinel. "Whenever we get these big surfs, all types of stuff washes up on shore."

After seeing how some spring break revelers have been handling the various things that wash up on shore, it's probably a good thing that Stolowitz found this sea weed when he did. 

Follow Drew Schwartz on Twitter.

How Cops Are Using Social Media to Find Missing Teens

The day he went missing, 16-year-old Anthony Barnes, Jr. was wearing a jacket with fur around the hood. It was in the thick of last Tuesday's big winter storm, when the snow was still coming down hard in Washington, DC.

Barnes is among more than a dozen teenagers DC police have reported as "critically missing" since March 1—all of whom are black, like Barnes, or Latino. Flyers of the DC teens quickly became a social media sensation, fueling concern about an epidemic of missing kids, speculation about human trafficking, and rage that the national media wasn't paying enough attention. "Does Anyone Care About DC's Missing Black and Latinx Teens?" asked The Root. "Most Media Outlets Aren't Reporting on the Disappearance of Black and Latinx D.C. Teens," declared Teen Vogue.

But DC police deny that there's been any increase in the number of missing teens. About 200 juveniles are reported missing in DC every month, according to the cops; so far in 2017, it's been about 190 reports per month. Instead, authorities attribute the public outcry to a new social media strategy that uses Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms to publicize the cases—tools that are changing the search for missing persons across the country.

"What has changed is our getting that information out quickly," DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a press conference last Thursday.

DC cops are also doing more to publicize the most critical cases. In December, the department began issuing press releases for every single "critical missing" person—defined as anyone under 15, over 65, or otherwise deemed to be vulnerable. Not every critical case had received a press release under the old system. This year, DC officials said at the press conference, 95 percent of the missing persons cases have been closed.

Rachael Powers, a criminologist at the University of South Florida, says that social media has become "the new milk carton campaign" for police departments across the country, stressing the importance of publicity for missing persons cases. "It's the difference between 40 eyes and 4,000 eyes," she says.

Valencia Harris, whose daughter has been missing since 2010, welcomes the new attention that's come to the plight of families like hers on social media. "I've personally had to fight too and nail to humanize my daughter, as a person and a member of a community that wasn't in the elite area," says Harris, whose daughter Unique was 24 years old when she disappeared from her DC home. Studies have shown that racial minorities who go missing are less likely to receive national news coverage than white missing persons.

But the emotionally charged landscape of social media can also make it easy for heightened awareness to morph into downright panic. Last week, one Twitter user compiled a screenshot of missing persons flyers, urging her followers to "help find these 8 BLACK GIRLS reported missing in Washington, DC. during the past three days." The message racked up more than 108,000 retweets, accompanied by rampant speculation that the young teenage girls were the victims of a human trafficking ring.

"There are so many kids just disappearing," said Lennaile Waller, a DC resident who lives a few doors down from Anthony Barnes Jr.'s family. "There's got to be something behind it."

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While acknowledging that missing kids are vulnerable to exploitation, DC police say there's no evidence that the recent cases are directly linked to human trafficking. "The case may involve a chronic runaway, an individual suffering from a chronic medical condition like dementia, and sometimes folks are reported missing when they have voluntarily left home for personal reasons," Acting DC Police Chief Peter Newsham said at the press conference.

That falls in line with the national research on missing children, which has found that the cases frequently involve kids who've left home because of family conflict, abuse, and other stressors. "We used to think they were running to something—that they were just 'bad kids,' Powers said . "We're learning now that they're kids who are running from bad conditions."

Natalie Wilson, co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, which helps locate missing people of color, believes that misguided assumptions about delinquent teenagers are still warping the public's view of minorities who go missing. "It's the stereotype that they're involved in some kind of criminal activity," she told me.

Like the DC police, the group also uses social media to raise the profile of missing persons cases. But Wilson says that traditional media coverage is still important to generating leads: In 2012, a missing black teenager in New York was found just hours after her story was featured on The View and an anonymous viewer who recognized the girl called in a critical tip.

Amid the flurry of attention surrounding missing kids in DC, there have also been some breakthroughs. Over the past week, police reported that seven kids who were missing in DC have been found. And on Tuesday morning, the DC police posted a new update on Twitter: "16 yo Anthony Barnes, Jr. has been located in good health. Thank you to the community and media!"

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The Disturbing Lawsuit by the Cops Charged in Freddie Gray’s Death

This story was published in partnership with the Marshall Project.

When Freddie Gray died in Baltimore in April 2015, the city's chief prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby, wasted no time in doing what prosecutors in other police-related deaths of African Americans had been slow to do: She went after the cops.

Within two weeks, Mosby rushed ahead of a grand jury to charge six officers in Gray's death. After her decision, days of rioting and looting came to an end. The Black Lives Matter movement cheered her assertiveness. Trials began within the year.

But then things went wrong for Mosby. The criminal cases, which included second-degree murder and manslaughter charges, collapsed. In some, the police officers were acquitted; in others, the charges were dropped. And as Mosby's tough approach disintegrated, the officers turned the tables—they took her back to court and sued her for something prosecutors are traditionally protected from: malicious prosecution.

Surprisingly, the US District Court judge who is hearing their case, Marvin J. Garbis, has so far rejected Mosby's arguments against the multimillion-dollar lawsuit, allowing it to move toward trial. In January, he quashed her effort to dismiss the case altogether. And on Monday, in rejecting her motion to stay the discovery process, he ordered that even as a prosecutor she must turn over her emails and be deposed under oath about a sensitive case.

The judge's ruling was jolting but not just for Mosby: In the US justice system, lawsuits against prosecutors, let alone successful ones, are nearly unheard of. As the state's attorney for Baltimore, Mosby is supposed to have "absolute" immunity from being sued for doing her job. If she didn't, the logic goes, she would be so concerned about potential litigation that she might not have the backbone to make tough charging decisions, especially against powerful defendants like organized-crime bosses—or cops.

"I'm not aware of any lawsuits like this—against a prosecutor—that have been successful, whether it's police officers bringing it or people who have been wrongfully convicted or anyone else," said Larry H. James, general counsel for the National Fraternal Order of Police and an expert on litigation involving law enforcement.

"We felt ours was the one-in-a-thousand case," said Michael E. Glass, attorney for William Porter and Sergeant Alicia White, two of the officers suing Mosby.

That it may be, given Garbis's latest ruling.

Garbis has ruled that Mosby could yet be entitled to normal prosecutorial immunity—but not until the court has explored her approach to the Gray case, which she and her office investigated on their own, going outside the normal role of prosecutor. Mosby has said she did that precisely because she felt the police were not willing or able to investigate themselves; the Baltimore Police Department allegedly failed to execute search warrants on its officers' cellphones.

The officers also criticized Mosby for moving to charge them before the grand jury could investigate. She did so, according to accounts of her thinking at the time, because she had recently watched grand juries decline to indict police officers for Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner's in Staten Island, New York.

The lawsuit, filed by Porter, White, Lieutenant Brian Rice, and officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero, has reopened the dispute over the murky circumstances of Freddie Gray's death. Gray, who was 25 and had a minor criminal record, was arrested for carrying a knife, handcuffed, and put in a police van. But after the vehicle made multiple stops, he was found in a coma with his spinal cord severed. He died a week later, triggering the disturbances across Baltimore, which led to a state of emergency and caused injury to 130 police officers over several days.

Three of the officers in the Gray case were later acquitted, and cases against the others were dropped last July. By then, they had already filed the lawsuit against both Mosby and the assistant sheriff, Samuel Cogen, who wrote the charging documents.

In permitting the suit to go forward, Garbis ruled that the officers can plausibly make claims not only of malicious prosecution—the theory that a prosecutor targeted you for a purpose other than justice and without any probable cause—but also for defamation, invasion of privacy, and violations of their civil rights.

Mosby and Cogen deny the accusations. The Maryland Attorney General's office, which is representing Mosby, said it does not comment on pending litigation.

Of course, a prosecutor who does her own investigation instead of relying on the officers involved, who does not rely on the grand jury process, and who is willing to risk her co-dependent relationship with beat cops in the process, is exactly what many activists have been demanding. But it's precisely because Mosby took each of those atypical steps that she is a defendant now.

"What scares me about this case is that it's a pretty strong signal from the police that prosecutors across the country should be careful about bringing charges when it comes to police misconduct... which most of them already are!" said Daniel S. Medwed, a law professor and expert on prosecutors and wrongful convictions at Northeastern University School of Law.

"Usually, we think prosecutorial immunity is bad, and this case is a fly in the ointment to that view," he said. "What's challenging is that a lot of us would normally want prosecutors to be held more accountable for their charging decisions, but when it comes to making the brave decision to bring charges against police, maybe not."

A survey of news reports in recent years turned up just one other, similar lawsuit by a police officer: an Atlantic City, New Jersey, cop who had been accused of killing his wife. Prosecutors dropped the case in 2002, shortly before trial, when new forensic evidence suggested the wife had died of natural causes. Nevertheless, the officer, James L. Andros III, tried to sue, asserting that he had been wrongfully charged. But in 2009, the US Supreme Court refused to let the suit go forward, saying it was within a prosecutor's discretion to make a charging decision.

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Lawsuits against prosecutors brought by ordinary citizens, not police officers, appear to be equally rare. The only partially successful one that most legal experts can name is the Duke University lacrosse case, which bears some key similarities to the suit against Mosby.

Three of the school's varsity lacrosse players, all of them white, were charged with raping a black stripper who had been hired for a party. It turned out eventually that the woman had mostly lied. But the local prosecutor, Mike Nifong, finding himself in the national spotlight overseeing a racially charged case, failed to conduct a full investigation before bringing charges against the students. Nifong was later held in contempt of court, spent one night in jail, and paid $1,000 as part of a settlement with the players.

"Prosecutors can intentionally convict someone they know to be innocent and still have immunity," said Chad N. Curlett Jr., a longtime attorney in the Baltimore area and chair of the criminal law section of the Federal Bar Association. "It's kind of an extraordinary thing."

Despite Monday's decision, Mosby's team will have another chance—after the depositions and the evidence-gathering process—to get the lawsuit against her dismissed, through a motion for "summary judgment."

But as William Baude, a law professor at the University of Chicago Law School and formerly a clerk for Chief Justice John Roberts of the US Supreme Court, put it, "If the case against Marilyn Mosby ends up going to trial, then something really unusual is going on here."

This article was originally published by the Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that covers the US criminal justice system. Sign up for the newsletter, or follow the Marshall Project on Facebook or Twitter.

The Long Struggle to Reform the System That Lets Cops Casually Seize Property and Cash

A little after 7:30 in the morning on January 28, 2016, 28 automatic-weapon-carrying SWAT team members approached a warehouse in a popular business district in San Diego. They knocked down the doors and pointed guns at two workers inside, commanding that they lie facedown on the ground, before proceeding to turn the place inside out. The police officers, part of the San Diego joint narcotics task force—an amalgamation of local cops from various agencies plus some supporting personnel from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)—found what they were looking for: $324,979 from a safe inside. A helicopter hovered overhead as they made their score. 

The business was called Med-West Distribution, a medical marijuana dispensary operating in the open and, according to its owner, paying taxes in compliance with California medical marijuana laws, if not the letter of federal ones. Police, of course, claimed that the company was producing hash oil illegally. But the company maintains cops weren't going after the business for any type of wrongdoing—and that instead they just wanted to seize cash through the labyrinthine and punitive legal process known as "civil forfeiture." 

"When they broke open the safe, you could see on the security camera the officers high-fiving each other with glee," James Slatic, the owner of Med-West, told me. In addition to the cash, the officers found Slatic's tax return, which they later used to freeze his bank account and his wife's, as well as that of his two daughters, one of whom was in the middle of a semester at college. Within a few hours, the entire family had effectively been rendered penniless. 

Worst of all: No one was even charged with a crime.

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The Slatics' story has become all too typical in America, where cops, district attorney's offices, and the feds all use civil forfeiture to transfer massive amounts of cash and property from Americans who are never even charged with a crime to help fund law enforcement. And one of the chief boosters of the practice, Attorney General Jeff Sessions—who has vigorously fought against the bipartisan coalition that wants to finally put an end to civil forfeiture—recently become the top law enforcement officer in the country. President Trump has also signaled his support for the practice, albeit in an off-the-cuff remark where it was not quite clear he understood what he was being asked about. Still, he threatened to "destroy" the career of a Texas state legislator who was proposing statewide civil forfeiture reform.

Even with Trump's apparent support, civil forfeiture has proven odious to prominent members of both major political parties. Particularly upsetting to civil liberties advocates is that those trying to get their money back don't get provided with a lawyer—this being a civil, not a criminal case—and the cost of an attorney usually outweighs the amount of money seized anyway. But we still don't know whether an almost comically pro-cop White House will serve to unleash police and prosecutors when it comes to seizing suspects' belongings. Trump has already signaled that he'll be increasing funding for law enforcement, an infusion of cash that would either discourage police departments from resorting to forfeiture or one that could simply embolden them to pursue even more. 

The use of civil forfeiture first exploded beginning in the mid 1980s, when President Reagan's Comprehensive Crime Control Act allowed police departments to "eat what they kill" when it came to seizing cash. In 1986, police departments participating in the Department of Justice's Federal Asset Forfeiture Fund took in just $93.7 million dollars. By 2014, that number had risen to $4.5 billion dollars. Over 88 percent of cases were being closed out administratively, meaning that people hadn't even tried to get their money or property back.  

Alarmed by both the civil rights being denied, as well as the property rights being trampled on, lawmakers at every level have increasingly stepped up to take on the problem. Over the past five years, at least ten states have reformed the laws by which police departments seize cash. But most of the laws are so recent, it's unclear whether they've had an impact yet. On the federal side of things, change has been slower—in 2015, then attorney general Eric Holder worked to limit some of the more outlandish uses of the Justice Department's forfeiture program. Still, in many states, civil forfeiture remains a way of life. And in some states like New Mexico, where substantive reforms have already been passed into law, police departments are still seizing cash, leaving citizens stuck in endless legal battles.

Even with the stiff resistance from law enforcement, some advocates like Darpana Sheth, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, an organization that has led multiple lawsuits on behalf of victims of civil forfeiture—and is working with the Slatic family—are skeptical reform will be significantly impeded by the new administration.

"We're hopeful that the opposition that would come from the Justice Department would spur on Congress to take legislative action," Sheth told me. 

Indeed, House Judiciary Committee chair Bob Goodlatte, a prominent critic of the practice, has said he intends to pursue comprehensive criminal justice reform this session, and Ted Cruz used his appearance at CPAC this year to commit to civil forfeiture reform in particular. And since Trump's election, even conservative states like Arizona have considered major new reforms limiting forfeiture; the State House voted 60–0 to advance a bill setting a higher evidentiary bar for pursuing forfeiture just last month. 

"It's the state lawmakers that are really answering that call to protect both property rights and due process rights of our citizenry," Sheth said.

When we spoke, Slatic and his lawyer were set to file another motion in his ongoing case. He has yet to recover any of the money that was taken from his business or any of the money seized or frozen in the accounts of his family. All he can do is hold out hope that even as the broader cause of criminal justice reform runs into something of a wall with President Trump, the principle of innocent until proven guilty is reaffirmed in American life.

"We're just demoralized," Slatic says, sounding exhausted while listing the obstacles still ahead in the fight to get his money back. "This is the dirty little secret of our entire justice system, and people are finally figuring that out."

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The Ex-Cop Who Killed Michael Brown Admitted to Using the N-Word

Documents just uncovered by the Washington Post show that Darren Wilson, the former Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in 2014, admitted in court that he used the n-word to describe black people. The filing, which is part of a civil suit brought by Brown's family over his death, also suggests Wilson heard other cops use the same slur.

Given the federal report on systemic racial prejudice by police in the Missouri city that came out not long after Brown's killing, none of this is exactly a surprise. But for his part, Wilson's attorney told the Post in an email this week that his client only used the word when repeating another cop's remarks as described by a witness—and that he had never done so in a "derogatory" manner. Nor, the attorney added, did his client "repeat... a racist joke while on duty."

The news comes on the heels of another new wrinkle in the explosive case. A documentary about the shooting that premiered over the weekend at South by Southwest contained previously unreleased footage that raised questions over whether or not Brown stole a box of cigarillos before his death. Protesters gathered outside the store at issue, Ferguson Market and Liquor, on Sunday night, and gun shots were reported. One man was arrested for allegedly trying to blow up a police car, but no one was injured.

A grand jury declined to indict Wilson in November 2014, and the cop's admissions to using epithets came as part of the ongoing wrongful death lawsuit Brown's family filed the following year against Wilson, his former boss, the St. Louis County Police Department, and Ferguson itself. 

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