Carment Ortiz’ private property over-reach

Carmen Ortiz is using drug forfeiture laws to take the livelihood of a Tewksbury, Massachusetts family away.  Her office is looking to seize the Motel Caswell on Main Street in Tewksbury, just because they supposedly didn’t call the police when drug trades were going on inside a room, the Government is trying to seize the whole property from them.  They have not been accused of dealing drugs themselves.  The Lowell Sun has the story.

At the end of the weeklong trial last month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Dein allowed the U.S. Attorney’s Office and The Institute for Justice, a Virginia-based group that is representing Motel Caswell owner Russell Caswell pro bono, one final opportunity to file briefs before she rules on the case.

In his 42-page brief, Institute for Justice lawyer Scott G. Bullock, summed up the case this way: “In an egregious abuse of its civil forfeiture authority, the United States attempts to take Mr. Caswell’s family-run motel based on an unprecedented reading of the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000.”

Bullock wrote that if the government wins, it would be a slippery slope.

“Accepting the government’s theory of forfeiture would subject to forfeiture countless establishments that serve the general public simply because they are the site of occasional drug crime,” Bullock wrote.

It is worth reading this whole article. It’s chilling.  Those of us on both sides of the political spectrum should be aghast at this.  What is particularly galling is Ortiz’s assistant US Attorney’s answer to a question about a McDonald’s parking lot.

Dein asked Rao if it was the government’s assertion that if a drug transaction takes place in the parking lot of McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts, and the employees are aware of it and do nothing about it, the government could seize those businesses as part of the drug-forfeiture law.

Rao essentially said that was true. She responded, “The test is knowledge and reasonable steps to curb drug activity.”


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