Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Drug War’s piranhas

The invaders who murdered Hampton, Virginia resident William Cooper swiped about $900 in cash. They seized his gun collection. They took the Lexus from his driveway. By some oversight they neglected to extract the gold fillings from his teeth.

While they made off with a decent haul, the robbers were doubtless disappointed that they couldn't locate the large stash of illicit prescription drugs they had expected to find. They had the luxury of tossing the home at leisure without worrying about being interrupted by the police -- on account of the fact that they were the police.

William Cooper, a 69-year-old retiree who suffered from the familiar variety of afflictions attendant to age, was startled awake on the morning of June 18 by two men who had barged into his home with their guns drawn and ready. Since he lived in a neighborhood in which home invasions (of the non-State-sanctioned variety) were commonplace, Cooper slept with a loaded handgun on his nightstand. He made an entirely proper but regrettably ineffective use of that weapon in an effort to repel the intruders, and was gunned down in his bedroom.

The police raid was triggered by an unsubstantiated tip from a still-anonymous informant that the NASA retiree -- who walked with a cane and, according to his neighbors, never seemed to have any visitors -- was illegally selling prescription drugs from his home. After they murdered Hampton, the police found about two-dozen different prescription drugs in the home, including various painkillers and medications for blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

An apparatchik with the Hampton PD insisted that the lethal home invasion had turned up "evidence" of illegal drug dealing. Someone not required to lie for reasons of professional convenience would admit the obvious: The victim of this needless home invasion was simply a sick, helpless old man who made extensive use of his Medicare Part D benefits. Now that he's dead, the people responsible for killing him are permitted to keep the stolen property as "proceeds" from alleged narcotics dealing.

The lethal June 18 assault on William Cooper's home was carried out under the supposed authority of Virginia's Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Task Force (PNETF).

The "Asset Forfeiture Addendum" to the PNETF's most recent "Memorandum of Understanding" specifies that "TASK FORCE investigations should result in the seizure of forfeitable assets." It is also expected that the plunder will be distributed "in a fair and equitable manner," with a little more than one-third going to the city governments of Hampton and Newport News, a little less than a fifth going to the State Police, and the rest being lavished on the "Peninsula Association of Commonwealth Attorney's Association" (redundancy in the original). At least some of the boodle would be used to cultivate other informants, as well.

To understand what really happened in William Cooper's home on June 18, it's useful to imagine the murdered retiree's body surrounded by police, prosecutors, and local politicians who pick over his lifeless form like a colony of vultures. The cash is divvied up, with Hampton and Newport News getting about $300 apiece, the State Police receiving roughly $180, and the local prosecutors laying claim to about $120. For taking the lead in the heist, the Hampton Police Department is permitted to keep Cooper's car and gun collection, to use or liquidate as it sees fit.

As this is a "civil forfeiture" action, it's not necessary to prove that Cooper actually broke any law. And since he's dead, he can't contest the forfeiture action in court. If police had conducted an actual investigation, rather than staging a home invasion robbery on the pretext provided by an unsubstantiated tip from an unknown informant, they and their cohorts wouldn't have been rewarded with this modest haul.

Original report here

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