AG Shurtleff Sells Your Property
Rights for $6,000,000?
confiscation lobby is determined to destroy your property
rights. Knowing why can help you see through their charades
and stop them.
2. Gut Initiative B
— Or Else! Political
Extortion by the U.S. Attorney General's Office
3. Secret Bills with No Citizen Input
4. It's All About Money
5. If Necessary, Break Your Campaign
6. Shurtleff Working with Flagrant
Violators of Utah Law
How much money are your
rights worth? That is the question Utah Attorney General Mark
Shurtleff is implicitly asking the citizens of Utah. General
Shurtleff continues his crusade to obtain $6,000,000 from the
United States Attorney General by attacking your rights to a
fair trial and to own property.
In 2000, 69% of Utah voters
approved Initiative B, designed to end the perverse incentives that enabled
Utah law enforcement agencies to pad their budgets with
confiscated property. Initiative B requires that proceeds from
confiscated property go to the Uniform School Fund instead of
police agency coffers, and also put important due process
protections in place to protect innocent property owners.
Most importantly, Initiative
B greatly restrains the ability of Utah's police to subvert
Utah's Constitution and laws by restricting the transfer of
property they seize to the federal government. Under federal
forfeiture laws, guilt is presumed and innocence must be
proved. Using an administrative (bureaucratic) procedure, the
federal government can forfeit the seized property and return
80% of the proceeds from it to the seizing agency.
2. Gut Initiative B — Or Else!
Political Extortion by the U.S. Attorney General's Office
Federal operatives have made
it clear that unless Initiative B is gutted, police agencies
will not receive millions of dollars now being held in
reserve. These operatives insist that Initiative B be
essentially repealed. They specifically wish to nullify the
requirement that a state court approve any transfer of seized
property to the federal government. This ensures that state
constitutional and statutory protections are upheld for
innocent owners. They also abhor the requirement that
forfeiture proceeds obtained through federal "equitable
sharing" be deposited with the State Treasurer, rather than to
Rather than resist the
federal government's political extortion, General Shurtleff
has succumbed to the trappings of money and power — and your
rights are the casualty!
3. Secret Bills with No Citizen
SB 31, General Shurtleff's
attempt to repeal Initiative B, allowed police to bypass all
state courts and protections and go straight to federal
bureaucrats with your seized property. It also allowed police
and Utah courts to receive proceeds from those corrupt federal
transactions. Monies to police agencies would be funneled
through Shurtleff's office, giving him the power to dole out
these profits as he saw politically fit. SB 31 was, of course,
extremely unpopular (See our
quicksheet on SB31).
In General Shurtleff's own
"Now people said that we were misguided with Senate
Bill 31. It was a work in progress. We were trying to take
amendments; we were amending the thing until the last minute.
John Valentine was trying to throw in things so that we may
have missed something and that it was more than a burden than
a protection of innocent property owners. And I kept saying,
'Let's fix that.' But I'm not out to try and gut anything or
to throw away the will of the people. I'm just trying to do my
job." (Interview on Jim Dexter Show, KTKK AM 630, August 5,
General Shurtleff's claim of
not trying to "gut anything" are undermined by the secretive
process used to generate SB 31, as well as its horrific
content. The bill was hidden from public view until the last
possible moment in the legislative session. Qualified
proponents of forfeiture reform were excluded from the bill
4. It's All About Money
Why does General Shurtleff
try to destroy Initiative B? Simply follow the money…
A caller recently confronted
General Shurtleff on talk radio, stating that, "The whole idea
of forfeitures is to make money for police departments."
"Wrong… I flat out disagree with you.
That is not the purpose of forfeitures — to make money for
police departments… The purpose of forfeiture and the purpose
for every law enforcement I've spoken with is to take the
proceeds of crime; take away the profit out of crime. That's
the purpose and the basis for it." (Interview on Jim Dexter
Show, KTKK AM 630, August 5, 2003)
That same day, on a different
radio program, General Shurtleff stated this to the question
of whether we really need the federal government coming in to
prosecute Utah cases:
"We don't have funding
enough… The problem is our task forces, they don't have the
funding. They are not being funded appropriately by the
legislature or county. The money has to come from the feds and
we need that additional assistance." (Interview on Sheriff
Richard Mack Show, KTKK AM 630, August 5, 2003)
Which is it? Is the goal of
forfeiture to attack crime or to make money? Salt Lake County
Attorney David Yocom seems to clearly understand the answer:
"Our agencies have
nothing to gain by doing forfeitures [with the passage of
Initiative B]. In fact there is a disincentive for doing
them when you consider costs we will suffer and can no
longer recoup under the law." ("Law makes forfeitures a
hot potato," Kirsten Stewart, Salt Lake Tribune,
July 4, 2003)
Yocom is not alone in his
assessment: "Clark Harms, deputy Salt Lake County attorney,
said an added benefit to Valentine's bill is it will help
cash-strapped law enforcement agencies hire more officers."
("Seizure Law Put in Play," Kirsten Stewart, Salt Lake
Tribune, February 11, 2003)
5. If Necessary, Break Your
General Shurtleff admitted
the potentially unconstitutional nature of civil forfeiture,
and included the following on his
2000 campaign literature:
"Forfeiture is an important
crime fighting tool, but must only occur within Constitutional
limits. While I oppose civil forfeiture, I support criminal
forfeiture, once an individual has been found guilty."
Once in office, Shurtleff
shamelessly reneged on his campaign statement. When confronted
recently on talk radio, he stated:
"People have jumped on me
and said, 'Well you said during your campaign you
supported only criminal asset forfeiture.' And my position
has always been: In a pure philosophical sense, a pure
constitutionally philosophical sense, that's what makes
the most sense is to go strictly with the criminal asset
forfeiture. But in the real world, I think a lot of people
recognize… that we're going to include civil asset
forfeiture." (Interview on Sheriff Richard Mack Show, KTKK
AM 630, August 5, 2003)
speaking? Was Plato on the ballot for Attorney General?
General Shurtleff's chief deputy Kirk Torgensen may provide a
better understanding of Shurtleff's position. He wrote in a
July 6, 2003 letter to the Salt Lake Tribune:
"Forfeiture has been part
of the law for centuries. There is nothing about it which
is unconstitutional or lacking in due process."
6. Shurtleff Working with
Flagrant Violators of Utah Law
General Shurtleff has been
working with the very people who flagrantly violated
Initiative B and withheld over half a million in confiscated
proceeds from the Utah State Treasurer. Salt Lake County
District Attorney Clark Harms, for example, told the
Deseret News in November 2002:
"The current law inflicts
such strict liability on law enforcement in seizure cases
that agencies have found it wiser to simply stop."
Harms made this statement
while, according to the Utah State Auditor, his boss and Salt
Lake County District Attorney, David Yocom, was keeping
confiscated proceeds from the Utah State Treasurer. Harms'
department was not stopping forfeitures, it was hiding
the proceeds! (Read more on
State Auditor's findings.)
Harms presented alongside General Shurtleff's chief deputy Kirk Torgensen at the legislative
hearing on forfeiture later that month. Along with Shurtleff,
Harms and Torgensen have been key players in the effort to gut
Officer arrests criminal.
Criminal gets due process. Guilty criminal forfeits property.
Proceeds go to victims. Legislature separately funds the
Does property forfeiture have
a place in fighting crime? Perhaps, but only after the
property owner has received due process. If we wish to retain
our rights and also fight crime, then we need to look at
sound, constitutional solutions such as legislative
appropriations and judicial reform.
Forfeited property should not
go to law enforcement, as this will destroy their objectivity
and weaken the trust that should exist between police and
citizens. The proceeds of forfeiture rightfully should be
allocated to crime victim reparations (though Initiative B
sends these proceeds to the Uniform School Trust Fund).
Law enforcement is not above
the need for traditional checks and balances — core principles
of American government. Other state agencies resolve budget
shortfalls in two ways: They either petition the legislature
for an increase or they tighten their belts. Property
forfeiture is a harmful budgetary approach that can only
undermine freedom, community, and property rights.
Your right to own property is
sacred, and must not be tampered with by General Shurtleff or
any other politician. Do not
relinquish your ability to hold accountable General Shurtleff
and others who are willing to use your rights as political
fodder. Our state requires leaders who validate their
philosophical claims by correct, constitutional actions.
* * * * *
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