When Jennifer Boatright and Ron Henderson complained to the county in the hope of retrieving their savings, they got another surprise. Lynda Russell, the district attorney, told them she had warned repeatedly that they did not have to sign the waiver, but, if they continued to contest it, they could be indicted on felony charges. I will contact you and give you an opportunity to turn yourself in without having an officer come to your door, she wrote in a letter mentioning the prospect of a grand jury. Once again, their custody of the kids was threatened. Boatright and Henderson decided to fight anyway.

When out-of-town drivers who felt victimized by a Tenaha forfeiture called local lawyers for help, their business wasn’t always welcomed. «That’d be like kicking a basket of rattlesnakes,» one defense lawyer warned a forfeiture target, Often they were referred to a defense attorney named David Guillory, in nearby Nacogdoches. Guillory is abroad-faced man with blue eyes and the gregarious, cheerful disposition of a Scoutmaster. (He is, in fact, an assistant Scoutmaster of local Troop 100, and keeps the «Handbook of Knots» by his desk, near heaps of legal briefs.) He moved to Nacogdoches seventeen years ago and set up shop

Continue reading When Jennifer Boatright and Ron Henderson complained to the county in the hope of retrieving their savings, they got another surprise. Lynda Russell, the district attorney, told them she had warned repeatedly that they did not have to sign the waiver, but, if they continued to contest it, they could be indicted on felony charges. I will contact you and give you an opportunity to turn yourself in without having an officer come to your door, she wrote in a letter mentioning the prospect of a grand jury. Once again, their custody of the kids was threatened. Boatright and Henderson decided to fight anyway.

The lawyers figured that such misconduct had already been recorded. In Tenaha, the policestation and cars were outfitted with video-surveillance equipment. And Boatright, for one, said that on the night of her detention Washington told her that the whole thing was being captured on film. Garrigan had requested footage of traffic stops made by Washington and his partner, along with related video from the station, but got nowhere. Then, after the Tenaha lawsuit caught the attention of the national media, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice launched its own criminal investigation into the alleged abuses. Several months later, in October, 2009, large stacks of optical disks were finally turned over. Garrigan and Guillory now had hundreds of hours of digital footage to sort through. Garrigan hired a colleagues adult son to sit at a large oval wood veneer table with a laptop and a supply of Starbucks, sorting through it all. (Hes still at it.)

Curiously, most of Barry Washington’s traffic stops were absent from the record. In those instances where Washington had turned on his dashboard camera, the video was often of such poor quality as to be «useless», Garrigan says. There was hardly any footage of his clients, including Jennifer Boatright and Ron Henderson.

In James Morrow’s case, a sliver of video was identified from Constable Randy Whatleyʼs camera feed, which captured part of the man’s detention by the side of the road. Washington could be heard instructing Whatley, «Would you take your K-9? If he alerts on the vehicle, I’m gonna take

Continue reading The lawyers figured that such misconduct had already been recorded. In Tenaha, the policestation and cars were outfitted with video-surveillance equipment. And Boatright, for one, said that on the night of her detention Washington told her that the whole thing was being captured on film. Garrigan had requested footage of traffic stops made by Washington and his partner, along with related video from the station, but got nowhere. Then, after the Tenaha lawsuit caught the attention of the national media, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice launched its own criminal investigation into the alleged abuses. Several months later, in October, 2009, large stacks of optical disks were finally turned over. Garrigan and Guillory now had hundreds of hours of digital footage to sort through. Garrigan hired a colleagues adult son to sit at a large oval wood veneer table with a laptop and a supply of Starbucks, sorting through it all. (Hes still at it.)

TAKEN

Under civil forfeiture, Americans who haven’t been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes. Is that all we’re losing?

On a bright Thursday afternoon in 2007, Jennifer Boatright, a waitress at a Houston bar and grill, drove with her two young sons and her boyfriend, Ron Henderson, on U.S. 59 toward Linden, Henderson’s home town, near the Texas-Louisiana border. They made the trip every April, at the first signs of spring, to walk the local wild flower trails and spend time with Henderson’s father. This year, they’d decided to buy a used car in

Continue reading TAKEN

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