Tag Archives: Due Process

9th Circuit Appeals Court Rules Federal Government Can Ban Medical Marijuana Patients From Buying Guns

This week the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, located in San Francisco, ruled that a ban by the Federal Government on the sale of firearms to medical marijuana cardholders does not violate the Second Amendment. The ruling was made in regard to a lawsuit by S. Rowan Wilson over her attempt to buy a gun in 2011.

Wilson, who is a resident of Nevada, was denied by a gun store based on a federal ban against sales of firearms to illegal drug users. In spite of state laws allowing for medical use of cannabis (and recreational use in several states at this point), the Federal Government still considers it illegal. Therefore, medical marijuana patients are considered illegal drug users.

Via the Las Vegas Review Journal:

The 9th Circuit in its 3-0 decision agreed that it’s reasonable for federal regulators to assume a medical marijuana card holder is more likely to use the drug.

In addition, a ban on the sale of guns to marijuana and other drug users is reasonable because the use of such drugs “raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated,” Senior District Judge Jed Rakoff said.

The 9th Circuit also rejected other constitutional challenges to the ban that were raised by Wilson.

The lawsuit made several constitutional challenges to the ban. Some, such as that it shouldn’t be assumed that someone holding a medical marijuana card actually use marijuana, were less than compelling arguments. (Wilson says she actually isn’t a marijuana user, but attained a medical card in order to show support for the legalization of marijuana.) Others, such as that it deprives patients the right to bear arms as the Second Amendment guarantees without due process, are not only more valid arguments, but also highlight some of the inherent flaws of medical marijuana laws.

In terms of the lack of due process, although alcohol and drug abusers are also banned from buying weapons, they have to have an actual history of having done so. This means that the mere fact that someone drinks or uses prescription drugs cannot be the basis for them to be denied the sale of a gun. This brings up the issue of HIPAA laws in relation to medical marijuana. Normally, someone having been prescribed a medication would be protected by HIPAA regulations from that being disclosed publicly. However, those being prescribed medical marijuana are listed on a database that can be accessed by others beyond their personal medical providers including members of law enforcement.

What this effectively means is that someone who has been prescribed opiates or other much more dangerous and addictive drugs is still afforded due process before their gun rights are taken away. They still have to have a record of abuse in order for that to become a justification to deny them a firearm. Medical marijuana patients, however, can be denied simply based on the fact that they are patients.

In Nevada, the medical marijuana cards are issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. That means anytime someone is pulled over for a traffic violation the police officer pulling them over is going to be more likely to assume they are under the influence based on them being a patient. Medical marijuana patients are also banned from acquiring a concealed carry permit. In addition, anytime a firearm is used if the person having used it is a medical marijuana patient that is considered probable cause for police to test them for drug use.

Since there isn’t yet an accurate test for impairment from marijuana use (and because it’s hard to predict when exactly you may need to defend yourself) that places patients in position of deciding whether they want to have the option of the legal use of marijuana to treat their medical issues or risk being unable to defend themselves or risking harassment and possibly even a false DUI charge every time they drive. In a roundabout way, this actually makes people suffering from chronic pain more likely to use and become addicted to opiate-based drugs.

This case will continue through several more levels of appeals, including a ruling by the full 9th Circuit Court, however it represents yet another back door effort by the federal government to restrict constitutional rights.

Four Days in a Las Vegas Jail for Protesting Government Murder by Drones

The following post was originally posted at the blog “Dissident Voice” under the title, “My Visit to a Las Vegas Jail” by Brian Terrell.

It describes the experience Terrell had dealing with the Las Vegas “justice” system after having been arrested during an anti-drone protest at Creech Air Force Base, which is located just north of Las Vegas and from where most of the drones murdering people in the Middle East are controlled remotely.

Although it is rather long, it is well worth reading as it makes many important points about the nature of the court system and the way that the courts have essentially become a giant ATM machine for the government.

Previously, I have written about these issues in relation to the Las Vegas courts. Those posts can be found here, here, and here.

“My Visit to a Las Vegas Jail”

“What happened to us was a shakedown by gangsters wearing police uniforms and judges’ robes, not for the sake of justice, but to maintain the civic infrastructure behind the glittering façade of Las Vegas with dollars squeezed out of its poorest citizens.”

“The degree of civilization in a society,” wrote the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, “can be judged by entering its prisons.” As a frequent visitor to Nevada in recent years, I have often been surprised by the cultural diversity and spiritual richness that can be found in Las Vegas. Still, I think that Dostoyevsky was right. A more accurate assessment of the degree of civilization in Las Vegas and for the broader society that the city claims to be “The Entertainment Capital” of can be made by entering the cells of the Clark County Correctional Center than by going to the top of the Stratosphere, cruising the Strip or even by taking in a Cirque du Soleil show.

I was one of twenty five arrested by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police at Creech Air Force Base, the center of drone assassination by the US Air Force and the CIA some forty miles northwest of the city on March 31 and April 1. “Shut Down Creech” was a weeklong convergence of activists from around the country. Most of us staying in tents at a makeshift “Camp Justice” in the desert across the highway from the base, our days of discussion, study, song, reflection and strategizing built up to a dramatic series of coordinated actions, including street theater and blockades, that disrupted the lethal business as usual of Creech. While we expected to be arrested, this was not our desire or our goal. Once again, the police arrested the wrong people as they abetted the criminals and took those who acted to stop a crime in progress down town to be booked.

Since 2009, I have had at least two other trips on the police from Creech to the county jail at the prestigious address, 330 S Casino Center Blvd in Las Vegas, to undergo the tedious process of booking, the fingerprinting, mugshots and other indignities before getting kicked out onto the sidewalk a few long hours later. This time, however, after my friends and comrades were released one by one, I remained behind. I was kept in jail for the next four days, not for my part in the day’s protest, but on a bench warrant due to an unpaid traffic fine.

I had been arrested a year before at another protest at Creech and cited for the misdemeanor crime of impeding traffic and released with 30 some others on our promise to return for trial. Some weeks later, the charges on ten of us were reduced to the traffic offence of “pedestrian soliciting a ride or business on a roadway” and we were assessed a $98 fine with no apparent way to plead not guilty. While those who eventually went to trial on the original charges were found not guilty or had their charges dismissed, those of us in the “hitchhikers’ club” all failed in our various attempts to have our cases heard. “How can I contest this ticket?” I asked the clerk at the Justice (sic) Court in Las Vegas. “You don’t contest it,” was the answer, “you PAY it.” In Las Vegas, it is easier to plead not guilty to a violent felony than it is to contest a traffic ticket.

Pay The Fine Las Vegas CourtIn due course I got a glossy postcard in the mail with a color photo of a perp getting handcuffed against a Metropolitan Police squad car, with the clever warning “Pay the Ticket, Avoid the Click-it.” This image, that can also be found on the court’s website, came with this threat: “The Las Vegas Township Justice Court will issue arrest warrants for all unpaid traffic tickets. An additional warrant fee of $150 and a late fee of $100 will be added to all tickets that proceed into warrant status. In addition to warrant fees and penalties, all unpaid traffic tickets will be reported to national credit reporting agencies.” A search of my case on the court’s website showed that I had been charged to pay for my own warrant and another “compliance fee,” apparently to pay for my account getting referred to a collection agency, bringing my bill up to $348.

These mounting fines and lack of access to the courts and the calls that started to come from a collection agency were a small annoyance to me, but are an indication of a larger systemic problem. The Las Vegas Justice Court Mission Statement (“The vision of the Las Vegas Justice Court is to maximize access to Justice, in order to achieve the highest possible level of Public Trust and Confidence”) notwithstanding, these practices and those like them in courts around the country are illegal.

A March 16, 2016, “Dear Colleague” letter from the Office for Access to Justice of the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, addressed to state and local courts lays it out:

Recent years have seen increased attention on the illegal enforcement of fines and fees in certain jurisdictions around the country—often with respect to individuals accused of misdemeanors, quasi-criminal ordinance violations, or civil infractions. Typically, courts do not sentence defendants to incarceration in these cases; monetary fines are the norm.  Yet the harm caused by unlawful practices in these jurisdictions can be profound.  Individuals may confront escalating debt; face repeated, unnecessary incarceration for nonpayment despite posing no danger to the community; lose their jobs; and become trapped in cycles of poverty that can be nearly impossible to escape.  Furthermore, in addition to being unlawful, to the extent that these practices are geared not toward addressing public safety, but rather toward raising revenue, they can cast doubt on the impartiality of the tribunal and erode trust between local governments and their constituents.

This letter cites a Supreme Court ruling that the due process and equal protection principles of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibit “punishing a person for his poverty” and further insists that:

The use of arrest warrants as a means of debt collection, rather than in response to public safety needs, creates unnecessary risk that individuals’ constitutional rights will be violated.  Warrants must not be issued for failure to pay without providing adequate notice to a defendant, a hearing where the defendant’s ability to pay is assessed, and other basic procedural protections.  …  When people are arrested and detained on these warrants, the result is an unconstitutional deprivation of liberty.

Somehow, the memo did not make it to Las Vegas. While the statistics are not available, during that long weekend I was not the only inmate in the Clark County jail locked up solely for not paying fines on minor offenses.

The deplorable conditions and cruelties of this jail defy exaggeration and are as extravagant as the floor shows at the city’s casinos and hotels. It was more than eight hours after getting arrested that I was finally taken out of shackles. We were packed standing room only, more than forty people in a small cell those first hours in chains.

Not long after I arrived, as a guard opened the door to push in yet another prisoner, a very slight young man edged his way to the front and tried desperately to explain that he was suffering an anxiety attack and needed air. Not listening, the guard tried to slam the door on this young man who stepped forward into the door jamb. The guard then grabbed the young man, threw him down onto the hallway floor and even though his hands were shackled at his waist and he could not hit back, at least five guards, all larger than him, all had their knees on his body and were pummeling him with their fists. The last I saw of him, his face was bloodied and he was being wheeled away, his wrists and ankles chained to a restraint chair. This was the jailers’ response to a normal human reaction to an inhuman situation and those suffering from mental illness or the effects of withdrawal were treated no less harshly.

Like some bizarre board game, we prisoners were inexplicably moved from cell to crowded cell at all hours. Sometimes a prisoner would only just arrive before their name was called for another move. Sometimes the guards went from cell to cell shouting a name of someone they had somehow misplaced. Some of our cell mates insisted that they had been in the same place for many days and worried that they had been lost as well. Guards were constantly giving contradictory and erroneous “information,” such as when we would get to court or be moved to more spacious and comfortable quarters upstairs. Some of the guards, not restrained by their own lack of credentials, were generously distributing legal advice to those preparing to see a judge. I found out later that my friends outside were likewise misled by jail employees as they tried to keep track of me.

I had arrived at the jail early on a Friday and was kept in these holding cells until Monday morning at 3 o’clock. Meals were unsatisfactory nutritionally and esthetically, but also, served as they were at 3 AM, 9AM and 3PM, did not even serve to mark the passage of time in this dungeon without windows and where the lights never dimmed. These cells varied in size and the body counts in them varied hour to hour. There were narrow benches around the walls where a few could lie down and nap, but most of us were lucky when there was room enough to stretch out without a blanket on the cold, filthy concrete floor. There was an open toilet in each cell- to use toilet paper, one had to find and wake the prisoner who had appropriated the roll for use as a pillow. In the wee hours after my third night on concrete, I was finally taken upstairs, given a change of clothes and a blanket and shown a cot in a fairly quiet and almost clean dormitory of some 80 men.

About 10 on Monday morning, I was chained up again and led through a series of tunnels and elevators to traffic court. There were some 30 of us in that batch, by no means everyone who had been jailed over the weekend for unpaid traffic charges. Each case was decided by the judge in seconds, with no defendant allowed to say anything beyond affirming their identity upon hearing their name called. Most of the fines and added fees assessed against these men and women amounted to many thousands of dollars. Based on an informal formula of dollars per days in lock up, the judge shaved off some off the fines owed and let most of the prisoners out with the threat that if the remainder was not paid in 30 days, more costs would be added, a new warrant issued and the cycle would be repeated.

This is a photo I took of the Brinks truck that they drive up to the front door of the Regional Injustice Center in Las Vegas every morning.

This is a photo I took of the Brinks truck that they drive up to the front door of the Regional Injustice Center in Las Vegas every morning.

None of us in traffic court that morning had been granted a “hearing where the defendant’s ability to pay is assessed” that the law demands before putting us in jail. Few of us, if any, had been found guilty by any judicial process before being fined in the first place. Debt collection, not guilt or innocence, was the only concern of this “court.” What happened in court that morning could be called “criminal justice” only in that what was done to us by the court was criminal. What happened to us was a shakedown by gangsters wearing police uniforms and judges’ robes, not for the sake of justice, but to maintain the civic infrastructure behind the glittering façade of Las Vegas with dollars squeezed out of its poorest citizens.

Through this experience, I met many interesting people, mostly young black and brown men. A few of them were locked up for alleged criminal offenses, but many seemed to be caught up in the same collections racket as me. The calls made from the phones in the cells were mostly frantic appeals to family and friends for money to pay the fines or the bail that would get them released. Unless they were wearing badges and carrying keys, there was no one I met at the Clark County jail that I feared as a threat to myself or to the public safety.

If the machinations of the Las Vegas Justice Court are not about justice, neither are the drones controlled from Creech Air Force Base 40 miles away about defense. By remote control and often under the shadiest of orders by the CIA, military personnel at Creech are assassinating suspected enemies far from fields of battle, based on unproven allegations or on “patterns of behavior,” often incinerating their families or the strangers unfortunate enough to be close by. It should not be surprising that a government that executes suspects, sometimes even its own citizens, without trial in places far away will also imprison its poorest people at home without due process.

Among those who stood with me in traffic court that morning, my own debt of $348 was one of the smallest and the judge summarily sentenced me to time served, crediting my four days in jail to wipe away all my fines and added costs. I was not even allowed to explain that I had never solicited a ride on a roadway in the first place. Although the judge said I was free to go, the bureaucracy of the jail took another 12 hours to get me released. It was after 10:30 Monday night that I was finally given back my clothes and sent out the long tunnel that leads from the jail to the bright lights of downtown Las Vegas, onto the sidewalk and into the embrace of faithful friends who had been keeping vigil for me the whole time of my incarceration.

I left the Clark County jail exhausted and happy to be out, but grateful, too, for the hospitality and patient endurance of those who shared their harsh, constricted space with me for a few days. It is a hard but precious privilege for this middle aged white man to visit such places where other good people have no choice but to inhabit.

The same drama is being played out in jails and courtrooms around the United States, the country that imprisons more of its people than any other. With more than 95% of criminal charges now settled with plea bargains instead of going to trial, many defendants are convicted and put away for years with not much more in the way of due process than I was afforded with my little trumped-up hitchhiking ticket.

It is unclear if what happened to me in Las Vegas Justice Court on April 4 was a conviction in the strictly legal sense, but what happened there has certainly deepened my conviction that the so-called war on terror is just one front of the vicious war on the poor and on people with black and brown skin here at home as well as abroad. This conviction will lead me back to Creech and other drone bases, to the places targeted by their Hellfire missiles when I can and, if need be, back to the Clark County Correctional Center.

Drawing on these connections, Voices for Creative Nonviolence is organizing a “NO Thomson Prison De-Incarceration Walk,” 150 miles from Chicago to Thomson, Illinois, from May 28 to June 11. Thomson is where the federal government will soon open a new “super-max” prison that is expected to keep up to 1,900 prisoners in solitary conditions that have been condemned by the international community as amounting to torture. Please join us if you can.

Brian Terrell lives in Iowa and is a Co-coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence. In recent years he has visited Afghanistan three times and has spent more than six months in prison for protesting at drone bases. For more information email [email protected] Read other articles by Brian.

Bullied by Police Over a Facebook Post in Maine

The content included within this post was received anonymously via the CopBlock.org Submissions page.

Date of Incident: November 23,2015
Officers Involved: Col. Robert Williams, Lt. Scott Ireland, Det. David Pelletier
Department Involved: Maine State Police
Contact Number: (207) 626-3811

In a clear bullying tactic by Col. Robert Williams of the Maine State Police, I was told to delete a Facebook post or expect criminal charges. The Facebook Post in question was a picture of two men who I thought appeared to have similar features. The post read “Corrupt Maine Trooper Lt. Scott Ireland & corrupt Illinois police officer Lt. Joe Giniewicz. They could be twins @MEStatePolice”. It included pictures of both men. This is just the latest chapter in a nearly five year nightmare.

It all started in 2011 when I came to Maine to do training with a sub-contractor. I obtained video footage of a man committing insurance fraud. When the state police found out about this, they charged me with working in Maine without a valid PI license. After I won in court and Justice Jeffrey Hjelm dismissed the charges before trial, the state police retaliated against me by denying my application for Private Investigator. They also contacted my largest client and told them there was an ‘ongoing investigation’ into me. This caused my client to stop using my services and was an obvious and clear retaliation by Det. David Pelletier and his commander Lt. Scott Ireland.

I could not believe that men who swore an oath to uphold the constitution would be so willing to ignore it. My Constitutional and human rights of due process and presumption of innocence were so clearly violated that even a toddler could see it. So I wrote an article and put together a YouTube video detailing my experience. After publishing the article and video online, I received messages and phone calls from five other PI’s who said they did the same thing to them. Only one was willing to go public with his story, the others feared retaliation by the state police. Based on my experience, they had good reason to fear the state police. I wrote an article about what happened to the others and then more people started coming forward telling of horror stories of treatment by Maine State Police. Not all of the stories were about Det. Pelletier and Lt. Scott Ireland, however enough were for me to reasonably conclude they were ‘bad apples’.

As I started to look more closely into Lt. Scott Ireland and Det. David Pelletier, I uncovered a connection between Lt. Ireland and a Maine business called Merrills Investigations. The owner of this business, Michael Harrington, was on a private investigation oversight board with Lt. Ireland. I could not believe that a Maine private investigator was the chairperson of an oversight board that regulates Maine private investigators. That is clear conflict of interest! However based on conversations with the other victims, I came to the realization that Lt. Scott Ireland may be filing false charges against private investigators that compete with Merrills Investigations. That is a clear case of government corruption and so I again wrote an article with my findings. The case was made that Lt. Scott Ireland and Det. David Pelletier were corrupt.

I wrote my findings in an article and posted in online. I felt it was my duty to warn others about these corrupt officers. People contacted me and told me stories about how Lt. Ireland has a short fuse. I heard that Det. Pelletier is often seen at liquor stores. I found videos online of Maine State Police intimidating people and so much more. This only gave me resolve to warn people about these corrupt officers and when I saw the uncanny resemblance between corrupt officer Joe Gliniewicz and corrupt Lt. Scott Ireland, I posted it. Officer Gliniewicz committed suicide this summer and staged it to look like he was shot on the job. After his plot was uncovered, it was learned that he and his family were embezzling money among other things. In some ways Officer Gliniewicz crime was child play compared to what Lt Ireland has done to me and others. For example, the client that I lost due to him was worth over $200,000 in revenue to my business. So where is that revenue going now? I believe it’s all going to Lt. Irelands friend Michael Harrington of Merrills Investigations.

After I wrote the article detailing my findings, I was sent an intimidating letter from a lawyer representing Merrills Investigations and Michael Harrington. It told me to delete my online posts or face a lawsuit. I did not delete anything and posted the letter online. I then wrote an article about receiving the letter and detailed how Merrills Investigation was under investigation by the Maine Department of Labor, however after a meeting between Maine Gov. Paul LePage and Michael Harrington, the investigation ended without explanation. The Maine Department of Labor confirmed this to me in a freedom of Information request. The FOIA request also uncovered a sixteen year relationship between the State of Maine and Merrills Investigation. I also strongly believe the threatening letter was sent at the request of Lt. Scott Ireland.

I contacted the Maine Attorney General Janet Mills to inform her about the constitutional violations by Lt. Scott Ireland and Det. David Pelletier. I received a response from Brian MacMaster from the AG’s office. He informed me that he was not going to investigate my complaint. I was so frustrated and confused by this, until I learned that Brian MacMaster is friends with Det. Pelletier, Lt. Ireland AND Michael Harrington. In fact Mr. MacMaster and Mr. Harrington have lake houses on the same lake. I told AG Janet Mills about this and asked why my complaint was assigned to someone who is friends with the very officers I was complaining about. I have not received a response.

I filed an internal affairs complaint with Lt. Anna Love of Maine state police. I was trying to get the other victims to come forward to her. They were skeptical that she would be fair. So I asked her to send me a list of all troopers that she investigated and resulted in a criminal charge. I began to become suspicious of her when she refused to answer my question. I have since concluded that she has never charged a trooper with a crime. Her ‘internal investigation’ focused 100% on reinvestigating me, contacting my clients and several lengthy interviews with me. In the second interview it became clear to me that she was on the troopers side. I learned that Lt. Love is the daughter of a State Trooper and is married to a state trooper. That means she grew up idolizing troopers and has no place in the internal investigations department. However she did tell me, while trying to defend Lt Ireland and Det. Pelletier, they contacted my client based on instruction from the AG’s office. Since the AG’s office was not involved in my case when my client was contacted, that was a clear lie. Making Lt Scott Ireland and Det. David Pelletier dishonest as well as corrupt.

I then asked for my complaint to go before a citizen complaint review committee. They refused this request and informed me there is no such committee in Maine. That means there is absolutely zero citizen oversight of the Maine state police. This may explain why there are corrupt troopers employed there! I then submitted a freedom of information request and was told it would cost hundreds of dollars, would take over 10 months and most pages will be fully redacted. I asked for a copy of my internal affairs investigation as well as all complaints against Lt. Ireland’s department. They flat out refused to give me anything pertaining to the internal affairs investigation. What are they hiding?

Because I posted my story online, I have been contacted by 19 people thus far telling me their stories about corruption at the Maine State Police. Whenever I repost my story more people are warned about the clear constitutional and civil violations by Lt. Ireland and Det. Pelletier. I had an exchange in the comment section of one of my post’s where a man told me to ‘let it go’. My response; “I wish I could, but people need to know about this bad apple officer and be warned! How many more victims will it take before something happens? Lt. Scott Ireland is corrupt and evil and he is a ‘powder keg’ who remains a danger to the public. If I ‘let it go’ and he kills someone, I’ll never be able to live with myself.”

Yesterday I received a ‘Notice’ and was told to delete my post about Lt. Scott Ireland or I will be charged with harassment under Maine law. This was clearly meant to be a threatening letter and constitutes a clear violation of First Amendment Constitutional rights and my human rights under Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Several months ago I received an email telling me the Maine state police followed me on twitter. I have learned they are monitoring my Facebook account. They are clearly not happy that I have exposed a few of their troopers. My only intent in telling my story and posting this online, is to warn others about the corruption at Maine state police. I do not believe that all police are bad, in fact I think the majority do an amazing job under very difficult circumstances. However the few bad apples in Maine appear to be infecting their chief, Col. Robert Williams. How many more victims need to come forward before something is done?

Note: If I am killed, Lt. Scott Ireland and or Det. David Pelletier were most likely involved.

 

Las Vegas Lawsuit Aims to Curb Courts’ Revenue Generation Focus (Update)

It’s no secret that revenue generation is the name of the game for law enforcement and the courts these days. However, as has been pointed out previously on CopBlock.org, Las Vegas and the State of Nevada are particularly prone to such piracy. Now a lawsuit filed in Las Vegas aims to put an end to that.

The lawsuit stems from the case of Eric Siegler, who had warrants for “fix-it” tickets that he attempted to have a lawyer quash in April, so that he could resolve the original tickets. Instead that lawyer, Craig Mueller, was told that Siegler would have to pay $450 in fines before his case could even be heard by a judge.

Eventually, Mueller was able to get Seigler’s case before an elected judge without paying what is (correctly) described by the attorney as an “extortion fee.” At that point, Municipal Court Judge Martin Hastings not only quashed the warrants, but also waived the original fees. However, the city attorney’s office then filed a motion against Siegler “to clarify the process leading to quashing of bench warrants.”

Revenue Generation Traffic Courts

“Business” is good at the Las Vegas Municipal Courts

Mueller responded to that motion with the lawsuit on behalf of Siegler. In the suit, Siegler charges that the court levies unconstitutional fines and extracts hefty fees from poor defendants. It’s alleged that this is a purposeful strategy to take advantage of those least able to fight back against those policies in order to generate revenue through the court system. In addition, it states that the court denied constitutional due process rights to Eric Siegler in regard to his warrants.

According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, City Attorney Brad Jerbic declined to comment on the case, because litigation is pending.

In that same article, Mueller summarizes the way the courts operate:

Mueller suspects the move is simply an attempt to protect a traffic court system built around unaccountable judges, exorbitant fines and plain old “extortion.”

That’s why he hopes Siegler’s legal challenge — set to be heard by Hastings on July 22 — can force the court to change its ways.

“My hunch is (traffic court) is designed to do exactly what they’re doing with it: To make sure you don’t get to a judge and you get screwed out of these outrageous fines,” he said. “I think we can force them to rethink it.

“If nothing else, we can embarrass them into changing it.”

A good portion of the LVRJ article, outside of the part discussing the lawsuit, is a rehash of the previous criticisms of the revenue generation tactics of the Las Vegas Municipal Courts already detailed in my earlier post. However, there are some interesting things brought to light by this article. One is that (unnamed) court officials are actually quoted referring to the courts as “our business.” Another is the fact that, although the number of cases filed in the Municipal Court have dropped by over a third (36%) since 2003, revenue has increased by 124% in that time. The vast majority of that is due to secondary fees and charges not related to the original charges, which often add up to several times the original amount.

Another example of how well Las Vegas residents are being served by their elected representatives is that Councilmen Bob Coffin and Ricki Barlow, who collectively represent five of the poorest areas in town (by ZIP code), are not too worried about the impact this is having on their constituents. Although Coffin can’t even recall the reason for appointing unelected traffic commissioners to essentially act as judges, he states, “I’m comfortable with the traffic commissioners to the extent that I can be.”

The fact that the courts operate like the worst mob-run weekly payday loan sharking operation, designed to keep people on the hook for months, if not years, is disgraceful in and of itself. Its use of unelected “traffic commissioners” and the requirement to pay these exorbitant fees before you even have an option to be seen by an actual judge, is downright criminal.

And those “community leaders” who just aren’t that concerned about the way the communities who elected them are being fleeced by this racket should be put out on the streets with the rest of the garbage in this city. Without the ability to hire a lawyer, it’s almost impossible to fight against this type of thievery and that’s precisely why poor people, who lack the money to do so, are being targeted. Of course, low income residents are also the least able to afford this financial treadmill. The people who supposedly represent them shouldn’t be comfortable with that.

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Michigan State Police Illegally Search; Use Falsified License to Entrap Legal Medical Marijuana Facility

The following post was shared with the CopBlock Network by Derek Antol, via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page.

Date of Interaction: July 09, 2014
Officers Involved: Det. Sgt. Karl Schmitz, Trooper Vogt, Det. Phillip Marshall, Det. Casey Bringedahl, Det. Kate Straus
Department Involved: Michigan State Police
Department Phone Number(s): West Michigan Enforcement Team (WEMET) 231-759-9600 Det. Kate Straus 616-430-5606

On Wednesday, July 9th 2014, my store and both my homes were raided by state police (WEMET). I received a call from my fiance mid-afternoon informing me that there was somebody from the Department of Treasury, Tobacco Enforcement Division, at the store inspecting our merchandise. He wanted to speak to the owner so I told her to put him on the phone. He stated that there were items in question at the store and that he was going to search the rest of the building. I told him he needed to leave and come back with a warrant. He told me that he was not going to leave.

Immediately, I dropped what I was doing and headed for the store. Upon my arrival, I found four people in my store that I did not recognize. Right away, I pulled out my phone and started videotaping everything. He asked about tobacco products in the store and I notified him that our products are not for use with, nor intended for use with tobacco. Then I showed him the sign on the wall which states this as well. I then asked him to leave, which he did not. I asked the identity of two officers who were accompanying him, who then identified themselves as Sgt. Schmitz, and Trooper Vogt. After my refusal to show them identification, I asked them for theirs and they refused. I insisted that if they are proclaiming to be officers of the law, that they needed to prove as much. They finally did.

Again, I asked these four persons to leave the store and get a warrant. They refused and proceeded to the rear of the building which is a completely separate business entity with its own tax identification number as well as a separate electrical meter. The people from the department of tobacco enforcement had no business going back there as it is not open to the public. They proceeded anyway. Upon searching the rear of the building, accompanied by the two state police officers, they observed marijuana that we were legally allowed to be in possession of. Again, the officers were told to leave and follow due process of law and obtain a warrant. Once again, they refused to leave. Det./Sgt. Schmitz then contacted Det. Phillip Marshall of WEMET and notified him of the marijuana found in the rear of the building.

Three years ago, WEMET raided our place of business and our home after illegally searching our vehicle without a warrant and against our will, and found us to be in possession of less than 12 ounces of marijuana. Under the state’s medical marijuana law, we are allowed to be in possession of 17.5 ounces. WEMET seized the marijuana along with all the cash we had and then proceeded to violate our rights after we had both invoked our Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. We were then taken into custody and further questioned against our will. To shorten that story, no charges were filed against us and our belongings, including the less than 12 ounces of marijuana, were returned to us after protesting outside the Muskegon County Hall of Justice where nearly 100 supporters stood with us. We filed a lawsuit against WEMET, Muskegon Police, and Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office. The attorney we retained to handle this case screwed us around for two years and we ended up having to retain a local attorney to go after him for our retainer back. We in turn retained an attorney based in Lansing who handles these kinds of lawsuits against government entities. Unfortunately, the case exceeded the three year statute of limitations as is no longer active…which brings us back to this story.

After getting information of the marijuana found, Det. Phillip Marshall of WEMET contacted Det. Kate Straus of WEMET and notified her as to what the situation was, and a team was formed at my store. When they arrived, I asked them to see a warrant, which they did not provide because they didn’t have one. They were asked several times to leave the premises and come back with a warrant, but they continued refusing to do so. Finally, our Muskegon based attorney arrived on the scene and we were escorted out of the building while they attempted to obtain a warrant. We were being detained at this time, but were not under arrest. Note that I had my two older sons with me at this time and my youngest son was at home sleeping while my buddy was there doing some electrical work for me.

By this time, I had been at the store with my sons for nearly an hour when I had their biological mother come pick them up. At this time, we were made aware of the fact that another team had assembled at my home on Green Creek where my son was sleeping, and also at my home that is for sale on Farr Rd. Finally, around 5:15 pm, we were served with a search warrant for 885 East Apple, the location of my store. Upon reading the warrant, I found it very disturbing that the warrant was based on the fact that on June 4, 2013, one Det. Adam Dent entered the store showing a previously prepared FICTITIOUS application for a medical marijuana card under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Program MCL 333.2642, and a FICTITIOUS cancelled check made out to the State of Michigan. The application and a copy of a cancelled check is needed by a patient before they actually receive their tangible Patient Registry Identification Card in the mail, to prove to law enforcement that they have actually registered their application with the state. The state only cashes the check if the application is approved, THUS, the copy of the cancelled check is the only way of knowing a patient has been approved before obtaining their actual card.

With that being said, Det. Adam Dent’s entrapment of using FICTITIOUS credentials gained him access to the rear of the building where he impersonated himself as a Crohn’s patient and purchased some medical marijuana. Note: The MMMA allows a caregiver to possess up to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana for each patient whom he or she is connected to through the department’s (LARA) registration process. It also allows a caregiver to possess up to 12 plants for each patient whom he or she is connected to through the department’s registration process. Furthermore, the act also states that a registered primary caregiver may receive compensation for costs associated with assisting a registered qualifying patient in the medical use of marijuana. Any such compensation shall not constitute the sale of controlled substances. It does NOT specify that such a patient need to be connected to them through the department’s registration process. Many patients who are new to the program are not convenienced by pharmacies that distribute the medicine; they are forced to obtain it through licensed caregivers who have what is referred to as “overage” until either (a) their own plants are harvested, which takes upwards of 5 months, or (b) someone who they have assigned as their caregiver through the state’s registration process, harvests their plants…which cannot be started until caregivership is approved by the state and take upwards of five months to grow.

As disturbing as it is that the state police waste taxpayer dollars by creating fake medical marijuana credentials, and then go after caregivers attempting to service the needs of the sick, what is even more disturbing is the fact that I later learned that while we were in custody at the 885 East Apple location, police entered my home and had my 12 year old son at gunpoint from a dead sleep, and began conducting a search BEFORE THE WARRANT WAS ISSUED! When my attorney asked Det. Kate Straus about my son’s statement of this happening, she admitted that officers entered the home before a warrant was issued. When asked about officers drawing weapons on my son and waking him up with flashlights and pistols in his face, she didn’t respond.

During the raid, officers seized cash, computers, cell phones (including those that were used earlier to record officers and their conduct in the store) and all marijuana and marijuana plants found. When I asked them why they were taking the marijuana and the marijuana plants, Det. Kate Straus stated that they were being seized because they were not in a properly secured facility. I asked her how this was when they had to kick down the door to enter the home and she replied, “because your realtor has a key for showing the house to prospective buyers and therefore has access to the marijuana.” I informed her that the area of the home where the marijuana is stored and cultivated is locked separately and nobody else has access to it, but it was too late. Officers had already came upon the area of the home where the marijuana was stored and cultivated and kicked in a second door now, into where the marijuana was stored. From there, they kicked a hole in the wall to gain access to where the marijuana was cultivated. After gaining entry to the cultivation area, they found the main door to the room and cut the master lock that was securing the facility. That’s how much of an improperly secured facility it was; so much so that they kicked a hole in the wall, and cut a lock. The plants had already been uprooted and the marijuana seized. Not only did they violate 333.26424(h) which states that any marijuana, marijuana paraphernalia, or illicit property that is possessed, owned, or used in connection with the medical use of marijuana, as allowed under this act, or acts incidental to such use, shall not be seized or forfeited, but they also violated the due process of law by entering and searching the home on Green Creek before a warrant was issued, and used excessive force by holding my 12 year old son at gunpoint. Oh, and I forgot to mention that they also seized my cell phone and were going through it BEFORE the warrant was obtained.

Now, whether or not you are a supporter of marijuana use for medical purposes, the law is the law, and the law was passed by 63% of the voters in 2008. Surely it was not the intent of the voters to have their tax dollars expended in such a way where law enforcement would prepare fictitious credentials and use them to purchase medical marijuana from a licensed caregiver and then go after them for providing an alleged patient a service where the state does not provide it, in order to alleviate the symptoms of a debilitating condition as permitted in the definition of medical use in section 3 of the law. MCL 333.26423(f) “medical use” means the acquisition, possession, cultivation, manufacture, use, internal possession, delivery, transfer, or transportation of marijuana or paraphernalia relating to the administration of marijuana to treat or alleviate a registered qualifying patient’s debilitating medical condition or symptoms associated with the debilitating medical condition. These officers MUST be held accountable for their actions and prevented from conducting themselves in such a way in the future.

They are pursuing criminal charges for two counts of delivery, which would not only incarcerate my fiance, but would get her medical marijuana patient card revoked, not to mention the five patients that she is a caregiver for, one of whom is a former Florida State Narcotics Agent who now resides in Michigan and uses marijuana to treat four different diagnosed kinds of cancer. This was all because they used fictitious paperwork that showed them to be approved by the state’s registration department. We have retained Nick Bostic in Lansing to file a lawsuit against them for their conduct, and to return any and all items seized in violation of MCL 333.26424(h).

It should again be noted that my cell phone was seized and searched before the warrant was obtained, and that the business was extensively searched after they were told to leave the premises, also before the warrant was obtained.

– Derek Antol

Video of the 2011 Protest in Front of the Muskegon County Hall of Justice: