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Report on Feb. 14 Town Meeting
(News for 2/16/04)

Summary: Below is a report of the Feb. 14 emergency town meeting by David Hansen, and includes a speech by Daniel Newby and a handout on SB 175 by Arnold J. Gaunt.


David Hansen's Report

    Pro-Confiscation Flier

    The Meeting Begins

    Confiscation Lobbyists Leave in a Huff

    Fliers at the Gun Show

    Summary: Keep Fighting!

Speech by Daniel Newby

Arnold Gaunt's handout on SB 175


Dave Hansen's Report

This morning’s town meeting in West Jordan City Library turned into a stormy affair, and it wasn’t the weather. When I got there (early) the library was just opening up, and as I stepped through the entry I noticed two walls of law enforcement officers, dressed in full uniform, lining the aisle. I didn’t know which way the meeting room was, so I turned left, and noticed what reminded me of airport metal detectors. The officers were lined up on both sides of the aisle just beyond the detectors.

As I walked through I wondered whether the metal objects in my pocket would set off the detector; they didn’t, and was relieved when I realized that they only detected magnetic strips (Kaysville library has no such detectors, so I wasn’t used to them at libraries). As I walked past the detectors, I then had to pass the gauntlet of officers. It was, I have to say, just a bit intimidating to do so. Was this the library’s new security to prevent book theft? I thought. Pretty heavy duty! Then I realized that they were more likely interested in this asset forfeiture meeting. This realization turned out to be more than a little bit true. After a while the librarian led us into the community meeting room where everyone could be seated. Some of us wondered whether these officers were being paid to attend this meeting. We suspected they were, since most of them were in uniform.

The meeting started late, because the keynote speaker, Arnold Gaunt, arrived late. By the time it started, the room was virtually filled with people, and I detected that close to half of the at least 100 people there were law enforcement, and they mostly took seats in the back. Some of the officers were in plain clothes, but still were wearing a sidearm. Even the Attorney General’s right hand man, Kirk Torgensen, came for this one. I didn’t see a gun on him. Senator Buttars, the sponsor of SB 175, and the senator for the district we held the meeting in, did not show. He must have taken a lesson from Sen. John Valentine the year before who was pretty well coerced into scrapping his bill after Arnold and others had publicly picked it apart line by line.


Pro-Confiscation Flier

Before the meeting Dave Spatafore, the lobbyist hired to push this bill through, handed out a flier in support of SB 175 and in support of Sen. Buttars. The flier complained that Initiative B was controlled by three large contributors. It didn’t mention that much local input was given by citizens such as Janet Jensen and Arnold Gaunt. The first heading is “What initiative B has caused.” It lists:

  • Sent millions of dollars worth of cash and seized property from Utah to other states.
  • Without the forfeited funds, Utah drug enforcement efforts has closed or consolidated.
  • School anti-drug programs such as DARE have been curtailed.
  • Your taxes, instead of forfeited funds from crime, are now paying for drug enforcement effort.

Note that the reason that these millions of dollars are flowing to other states is because police choose not to pursue asset forfeiture in Utah because police don’t get to keep the money. In Utah, seized assets are placed in the Uniform School Fund. Apparently education is not a high priority for law enforcement. How much drug enforcement has been cutback is questionable.

I know that in Salt Lake County Mayor Rocky Anderson killed the DARE program simply because it didn’t work. I have not heard of cutbacks in Davis County or anywhere else. This is one of the few issues that I think Mayor Anderson may be correct on. I think that most of us would rather pay taxes to fund drug enforcement than to have police given such raw power that can (and has) been used against innocent citizens. Giving police the forfeiture proceeds is nothing more of less than perverse incentives.

The next subtitle lists the reasons to support Senate Bill 175.

  • Does not kill Initiative B, but rather provides more protections for citizens.
  • Restores more than $4 million worth of forfeited funds to Utah.
  • Strengthens protections for innocent owners by adding “interest holders” protections.
  • Seized property must be adjudicated in a court of law.

The first of these is utterly false. The second is completely true. If we gut our constitutional protections, then the Feds will give us money, which arm twisting is typical Federal policy. The third one wasn’t addressed at the meeting (but, according to Asset Forfeiture expert Arnold Gaunt, that protection was already there before), and the fourth one is utterly false because law enforcement could still use the Feds to seize property, and the Feds are not required to prove the culpability of the owner before the property is forfeited.

The third heading brags about “preserving ‘parts’ of Initiative B, which was passed by 69% of citizens in the November 2000 election. “Parts” is right. It lists a number of things, some of which may be true, and some of which are definitely not true. One is “Takes away police incentive to do forfeitures.” Not true. Police, under this new legislation, will be able to still “benefit” from the seizures. To its credit, this new bill does have county officials divvying out the funds to police, rather than Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who wrote himself into that position in last year’s bill (what a “slush fund” that would have been!) Another heading: “Retains right to obtain attorney’s fees for improper seizures.” False. The bill says the judge “may” award attorney’s fees, striking the word “shall” and replacing it with “may.”

This reminds me of the trial I was a juror in in which we learned that the police had every right to lie to people they were investigating in order to coax a confession or a misstatement from them, but if that person lied to police, then that’s a pretty serious offense. The attribution on the flier handed out by lobbyist Spatafore is by Citizens Against Thieves and Drug Dealers, P.O. Box 500, Lehi, Utah 84043. If this is a private citizen organization, then why did so many officers show up in uniform?


The Meeting Begins

This time the bill was picked apart, again, practically line by line. Daniel Newby spoke first. I’ve included his comments below. Then Janet Jenson, a lawyer of over 20 years and one of the original author’s of Initiative B, spoke. She did an excellent job of pointing out the bill’s deficiencies. She pointed out, for instance, that one line changed “shall” to a “may.” This meant that a judge could if he wanted to award attorney’s fees to an innocent victim of forfeiture, but was not required to. Torgensen didn’t have a good answer as to why that change was made. It was just one of many problems.

In response to some allegations, Spatafore announced that he had the latest revisions of the bill and promised to provide them. Arnold wanted them immediately (the library had a copy machine), and Spatafore seemed hesitant to get them to him right then.
[Accountability Utah note: He never did provide them.]

During Janet’s presentation, Torgensen interrupted her at least twice. We finally had to ask him to sit down and shut up or to leave. If he had continued to interrupt the proceedings of the meeting, I was going to ask the law enforcement officer sitting just down from me to please kick Mr. Torgensen out of the meeting because he was disturbing the peace and being a nuisance. Torgensen finally decided to sit down and be quiet.

Both Arnold and Janet were very convincing in their presentations. During this time the law enforcement officials kept demanding equal time. “This is a public meeting,” they said, as if that gave them a right to equal time. Sorry, the organizers responded, we arranged this meeting, and we’ll give you your turn to speak when Arnold is done with his presentation. Arnold was finally done.


Confiscation Lobbyists Leave in a Huff

Then Terry Trease stood up and asked how many people were there that were NOT law enforcement. A lot of hands went up. Terry was going to ask them for a vote on whether they even wanted to hear the other side and explained that it wouldn’t be fair for the police to have a voice in the matter because the police had a conflict of interest, in that they would benefit from any assets being seized. Therefore only citizens should vote.
[Accountability Utah note: It is a disturbing trend that law enforcement in Utah now view it as normal and appropriate to attend and participate in political functions dressed in their uniforms.  In former times, this was frowned upon as highly inappropriate and intimidating. This behavior can still result in stiff disciplinary action for members of our armed forces.  This is definitely not the way to win over the hearts and trust of citizens.]

At this, a big hub-bub broke out and Spatafore stated that they would not stay in such a meeting, and he directed the attending officers to follow him out the door. When Spatafore left he took with him the supposed “amendments”, which still, as of Saturday night, have not been provided as promised to Arnold. All but a couple officers left, and Torgensen stayed as well.

After the commotion subsided, the vote was unanimous that Torgensen should address the other side. It seemed quite odd to me that the law enforcement officers were so insistent on their right to a vote despite the fact that they had a major conflict of interest in the matter. It also seemed odd to me that they did not trust the fact that the non-police citizens in that room would vote unanimously to give them a chance to present their side. Was this evidence of their elitist and untrusting mentality?

Torgensen then presented his case, but not once did he pull out the bill to point to a particular line that refuted any points made by Janet and Arnold. He kept calling the U.S. a democracy, and each time someone in the room would correct him with “republic.” “Read the Pledge of Allegiance”, one person requested. He talked of his love for the Constitution, and about how much Mark Shurtleff also loved the Constitution and how they would never go against it.

I had to wonder which Constitution he followed, the one the Supreme Court has destroyed, or the one the Founders provided. If he is following the one the Supreme Court has destroyed, then the worst possible forfeiture procedures would be considered Constitutional. (One example of these “findings” is that ‘property’ has no Constitutional rights and can therefore be seized by enforcement agencies without convicting the property’s owner.)

Most of his speech dealt with feel good stuff, rather than any particulars. When he claimed that he had attempted to meet with Janet, Janet, sitting near the back denied that she had ever been asked. On another point he made a claim, and Janet interrupted to correct him. Torgensen then told Janet that he had not interrupted her, and asked for her to be quiet. She retorted, “Oh yes you did.” “No I didn’t,” he said, “Yes you did,” the audience responded. He finally acquiesced with a pained look.

Torgensen left after answering some questions, but not before everybody’s questions were answered. The meeting gradually dissolved from there.


Fliers at the Gun Show

From there a group of us went to the Crossroads gun show, and there we passed out our "Warning! your gun is subject to confiscation" fliers, encouraging citizens to call Senator Buttars and their senators/representatives. It had pictures of both Buttars and Shurtleff on it.

As I walked down one aisle giving them out to everyone who would take one, which was almost everybody, a young man approached me and asked me for help on his particular case. He told me that he was in Bountiful and was pulled over for a traffic violation by a Highway Patrol Officer. When the officer approached his car, he volunteered to the officer that he had an unloaded gun in his car under his seat. The officer had him retrieve it. There was a clip in the magazine but no bullet in the chamber. The young man had thought that this was an acceptable way to transport a firearm since it would take two actions to fire the gun. In this he was mistaken. The officer cited him for having a concealed weapon, and confiscated the gun. The young man went through court, pleaded guilty (even though he had never intended or done any harm), paid the $150 fine, and then asked for his gun back. Now after almost two years, he still has not been given his firearm back, and each time he has asked he has met with bureaucratic road blocks. A Desert Eagle is a pretty nice gun. I wonder whether some police officer decided that it was just too nice to give back. It reminded me of the gentleman at the town meeting who stood up and quoted the scripture, "Thou shalt not steal." Yet that is apparently what some of these officers feel they can do.


Summary: Keep Fighting!

In sum, sources tell me that these fliers are having a remarkable effect, and many calls are coming in. Never before has any issue generated more calls and concerns. Buttars is remaining adamant in his support of this blatantly unconstitutional measure. If you haven’t called, I urge you to do so. If you have called, please call again and let Buttars and your representatives/senators know that, even with the "changes," the bill is still unacceptable. This bill should be worked on with all parties on both sides of the issue involved rather than being secretly crafted behind closed doors with citizens given little if any time to respond. Also, please continue to print out fliers and get them to your neighbors. Only citizen pressure will stop this power grab. Please do your part.

Click here to see the bill if you want to read it (although the amendments have not been posted yet. The next hearing is apparently Monday [Feb. 16] at 4:00 p.m. Please double-check the time before going. It’s slated to be heard by the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee. Committee members are Chairman Greg Bell, Chris Buttars, James Evans, David Gladwell, Lyle Hilliard, Al Mansell, Patrice Arent, Mike Dmitrich. I doubt the amendments will be available before then.

Click here to view and download the fliers.

See www.accountabilityutah.org for legislator contact information. [Accountability Utah note: See our Elected Official Contact page in particular.] Legislators can be reached at 538-1029, senators at 538-1035. Ask to speak to them or leave a message if they are unavailable.

I recorded the entire meeting on video tape. I did see a reporter from the Standard Examiner there. A police officer also recorded the meeting. There could have been other reporters, but there were no major TV news cameras. If TV had been there, there would have been some very newsworthy shots, but, no doubt, the coverage would have been heavily skewed to make opponents look bad.

Dave Hansen


Daniel Newby’s speech
[There was not time for all of it to be presented.]

Let me start by giving you a little background as to how we citizens have been manipulated for the second year in a row.

Back in February of 2002, I wrote a letter to the State Treasurer and Auditor asking him why a legislative hearing had revealed that no confiscation proceeds had been deposited in the Uniform School Trust Fund as required by Initiative B.

The auditor, to his credit, investigated. Two months later, I received a letter from the auditor confirming the fact that no forfeited property had been received by the State Treasurer as Initiative B requires. Specifically, he found that:

  • "… 28 cases [to which the initiative did apply] involved cash and property that should have been transferred to the State Treasurer for fiscal year 2002 pursuant to the UUFPA [Initiative B]."
  • "During our investigation, we discovered that … county district attorney offices filing these cases did not comply with the UUFPA and … the court also violated the UUFPA…"

Rather than vigorously enforce the law, General Mark Shurtleff set about to destroy it, secretly crafting Senate Bill 31 last year. A few citizens got wind of his efforts, but we waited for months to get a hold of the bill they were secretly drafting. We e-mailed, we faxed, and we left messages with the sponsor, Sen. John Valentine, and others. But we were left out in the cold. In fact, we were only able to “acquire” a copy shortly before the bill was supposed to be fast-tracked through the legislature.

As proof of that, consider General Mark Shurtleff’s own words in a radio interview:

"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 [of] 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, 2003)

First of all, is it his job to legislate and to draft secret bills? Is it his job to work in backrooms, crafting amendments to destroy the law passed by 69% of the citizens of Utah? Last I checked, this kind of behavior was not part of the Utah Attorney General’s job description. Yet, go down to the capitol on almost any given day, and you will see — as we do — General Shurtleff lobbying constantly, and attempting to undermine our rights on almost every issue of importance. According to reports, yesterday he was even asked by the House Majority Leader to vacate the house floor because he was lobbying and verbally attacking a representative.

In response to SB 31, we held an emergency town meeting just like this one in Sen. John Valentine’s district. Over 100 citizens attended this meeting, most of whom resided in Sen. Valentine’s district. They were pretty torqued and there is a film available up here for you to view at home if you wish.

After citizens pointed out the horrible portions of SB 31 and had vented a great deal of anger, Sen. Valentine surrendered, promised to kill the bill and to meet with select members of the audience to ensure that citizens would have a controlling interest in any future legislation. I was one of those people he promised to contact. I never received a phone call and, as far as I know, the half-dozen other people who he promised to meet with never received a phone call.

So why is there another bill this year? Is the word of the Senate Majority Leader worthless? Do his colleagues not respect both his word and the involvement of the people?

I must regretfully tell you that such is the case. We citizens have been left out, abused, ignored, trivialized, and mistreated at every turn.

We have a legislature — particularly a senate — today that even refuses to fund the state auditor so that we can find out what is going on today. The same auditor who exposed the corruption had his budget cut 10% — I believe as a punishment for fulfilling his duty. He was supposed to conduct an annual audit of forfeiture funds, but, according to Dean Eborn at the auditor’s office, they are too woefully understaffed to produce his report until the legislative session is over! And Mr. Eborn also mentioned that Utah County was slow to respond to the auditor’s requests.

So we have a legislature that doesn’t allow us to know what is really going on with current forfeiture cases in this state. Or how millions of dollars have ended up at the federal level when our police officers are supposed to be charged with a Class B Misdemeanor for circumventing state protections. And then, for the second year in a row, we have a secret bill drafted in the shadows of the Capitol that is only released last Tuesday.

Joe Ferguson sent an e-mail to Shurtleff the other day, requesting information on this bill. He received a response stating that his questions were irrelevant. Irrelevant!

And then the senate conducts a two hour committee hearing on SB 175 yesterday and gives less than half an hour to three citizens to attempt to respond to 23 pages of legislation that only showed up three days prior. We have learned through informants that Sen. Buttars and others now intend to amend the bill in secrecy again, present it, and pass it this Wednesday — if not sooner.

Can you rely on people of this caliber to warn you when they are about to pass laws that may seriously impact you, your family, and your community?

I think it is a crying shame that people like us have to even warn you about this kind of assault on your rights. What if we aren’t here next time? What if we drop the ball or fail to see something in time? That is too much of a burden for us to carry by ourselves.

Folks, you need to have elected officials who are true to their oath of office. You need officials who are respectful and who work out in the open.

Why Would They Do This? Why Are Our Officials Treating Us So Disdainfully?

A caller confronted General Shurtleff on talk radio, stating that, "The whole idea of forfeitures is to make money for police departments." Shurtleff responded:

"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." (Source: Interview on Jim Dexter Show, KTKK AM 630, August 5, 2003)

Yet 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." (Source: 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." (Source: "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." (Source: "Seizure Law Put in Play," Kirsten Stewart, Salt Lake Tribune, February 11, 2003)

And in yesterday’s (Friday’s) hearing, Sen. Greg Bell asked one of the citizens: “You don’t expect them to do forfeitures if they don’t get the money back, do you?” He asked that question with a straight face — as if law enforcement’s sole role is to police for profit!

Is this what you voted for? In General Shurtleff’s 2000 campaign literature, he admitted the potentially unconstitutional nature of civil forfeiture:

"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 quickly reneged on his campaign statement and opposed Initiative B. 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." (Source: Interview on Sheriff Richard Mack Show, KTKK AM 630, August 5, 2003)

Purely philosophically speaking? What does that mean? That sounds like something Bill Clinton would say. And General Shurtleff's chief deputy Kirk Torgensen 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."

Again, folks, this effort is all about money, power, and deception. You deserve to have elected representatives who listen to you, who include you, and who allow you the time and consideration to review the legislation that you will be forced to live under.

Is that too much to ask? Of course it isn’t. But that is definitely not what we are seeing today. In fact, we are seeing the exact opposite. And the only way it will be any different is if you demand it. Folks, you have to demand better. If Chris Buttars is unwilling to respectfully serve you and look after your interests, then some of you need to step up and run against him.

If General Shurtleff refuses to respectfully serve you and do his duty, some of you need to step up and run against him as well.

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress." — Frederick Douglas, August 4, 1857

You will only be manipulated and used as long as you allow it to continue. Step up and take back your government. Thank you.


Arnold Gaunt's handout on SB 175

Click here to see Arnold Gaunt's handout on SB 175 (in .pdf format).



For more information on this topic, see the Property Rights section of our Issues & Alerts page.  If you have comments or suggestions, please email us at info@accountabilityutah.org.


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