Feb. 14 Town Meeting
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.
The Meeting Begins
Confiscation Lobbyists Leave in a Huff
Fliers at the Gun Show
Summary: Keep Fighting!
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
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
- 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
- School anti-drug programs
such as DARE have been curtailed.
- Your taxes, instead of
forfeited funds from crime, are now paying for drug
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”
- 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
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.
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
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
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.
contact information. [Accountability Utah note: See our
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.
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
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
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
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."
"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
Once in office, Shurtleff
quickly reneged on his campaign statement and opposed
Initiative B. When confronted recently on talk radio, he
"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)
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
"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).
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topic, see the
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