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
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?
to the audio exchange.]
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
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 conference—likely
due to the extreme negative press Attorney General Mark
31 was pronounced dead.