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Property Confiscation Alert 2/20/03

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Attorney General enlisted several speakers to try to make the case that SB 31 protects innocent owners, and that false information has been circulated by bill opponents.  After the last speaker, the press conference was shut down which allowed General Shurtleff to evade hard questions that could have been, and would have been asked.  Certainly if General Shurtleff's position was defensible, he should have benefited from the opportunity to refute, before all, the "false" information that has been circulated about his legislation.

Following the conference, the press surrounded Terry Trease, who had challenged one of the speakers during the conference who stated that SB 31 should be supported because criminals opposed it.  Later, General Shurtleff approached me and wanted to know why I had been silent.  I told him that I had addressed about 100 people last weekend in the meeting in which bill sponsor John Valentine withdrew his support.  A lively interchange ensued, and he asked if I was willing to work the bill with him to protect property owners and direct forfeiture proceeds to police.  I told him that directing proceeds to the police was an unacceptable conflict of interest.  Since I was unable to "help" him on his terms, he walked off.

Shurtleff attempted to insult Daniel Newby, a prominent opponent of Shurtleff's attack on your right to own property.  Upon being challenged for behaving like a legislator, Shurtleff stated, "you Daniel Newby, who have never had one bit of life experience, who sits in his ivory tower...".  Don't personal insults like these often ensue when one's position cannot be adequately defended?
[Listen to the audio exchange.]

Conference Details

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff held his forfeiture press conference today (Wednesday 2/19/03) at at 0930.  He assembled several dozen police chiefs, sheriffs, and bureaucrats to stand behind the podium on the Capitol steps.  It reminded me of what Bill Clinton did every time he signed a new police state bill into existence.

The first speaker was a woman whose husband was killed while performing his duties as a police officer.  Probably most of you have seen this type of tactic before.  You must agree that unrestrained forfeiture is good, or you are a cruel and heartless person who believes that it is OK for police to be killed in the line of duty.  Shame on you Mark Shurtleff for political exploitation of this woman's justifiable grief!

The next speaker was bureaucrat Robert Flowers (Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety).  He asserted that a great deal of damaging, false information has been circulated regarding SB 31.  As with every other speaker, he had no specific evidence to support his claim.  He believes that Shurtleff's proposal represents a careful, thought out approach that protects the rights of everyone involved.  His final point was that we should support forfeiture, because the taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for everything (paying with proceeds from property directly or indirectly taken from innocent owners is superior?).

Val Shupe, representing the Police Chiefs and Sheriffs Association, proclaimed that the intent of SB 31 was to keep and strengthen protections for innocent owners.  Has anyone that has read the bill reached this same conclusion?

The special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration informed the attendees that the federal government doesn't allow federal police to profit from forfeitures (as opposed to General Shurtleff's proposal).  He said the federal government has millions and millions of "free" money to dispense to his law enforcement counterparts in state and local government.  He stated the burden of proof is always on the government at the federal level.  I have read the federal forfeiture code, and I have found that the burden of proof is on the property owner to establish his innocence.

The Chairman of the Parole Board, and representing the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, was disappointed that so many seem to be siding with the criminal element in opposing SB 31.  He supports SB 31, because in his view criminals oppose it.  When challenged following the conference as to which criminals he had consulted with, he was unable to respond.

Kirk Torgenson, AG Shurtleff's chief deputy, claimed that opponents of SB 31 had sent flyers and called legislators impugning the integrity of law enforcement.  He further asserted that SB 31 had been crafted with every protection they could think of (does this mean that they are not very imaginative or intellectually capable?).

Finally Mark Shurtleff concluded the presentations.  He asked the "legislature to not just listen to that radical few, who call law enforcement Gestapo, who are conspiracy theorists, who misrepresent the truth and the facts, and try and convince them [the legislators] that we are trying to go after innocent property owners, that is not what this is about."  He asked  that "every citizen in state of Utah, contact your legislators, the good people, the real people, who believe that protecting the public is a proper role of government."  He further stated that "if there are concerns about inappropriate activities, if we have to put some restrictions in place, Initiative B did that, and we are interested in keeping all of those protections in place."




Additional Note from Accountability Utah: Shortly after this press conferencelikely due to the extreme negative press Attorney General Mark Shurtleff receivedSB 31 was pronounced dead.

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