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  1. #1
    Forum Official Personal Life Coach BacktoBasics's Avatar
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    Highway robbery? Texas police seize black motorists' cash, cars.

    Suit says cops force motorists, largely black, to forfeit cash and cars—or be charged with trumped-up crimes.

    By Howard Witt | Tribune correspondent

    March 10, 2009

    A Texas senator aims to rein in search-and-seizure practices like those used in Tenaha, where scores have been targeted but never charged with any crime. (San Antonio Express-News photo by Lisa Sandberg / February 6, 2009)

    TENAHA, Texas— You can drive into this dusty fleck of a town near the Texas-Louisiana border if you're African-American, but you might not be able to drive out of it—at least not with your car, your cash, your jewelry or other valuables.

    That's because the police here allegedly have found a way to strip motorists, many of them black, of their property without ever charging them with a crime. Instead they offer out-of-towners a grim choice: voluntarily sign over your belongings to the town, or face felony charges of money laundering or other serious crimes.

    More than 140 people reluctantly accepted that deal from June 2006 to June 2008, according to court records. Among them were a black grandmother from Akron, who surrendered $4,000 in cash after Tenaha police pulled her over, and an interracial couple from Houston, who gave up more than $6,000 after police threatened to seize their children and put them into foster care, the court documents show. Neither the grandmother nor the couple were charged with any crime.

    Officials in Tenaha, situated along a heavily traveled highway connecting Houston with popular gambling destinations in Louisiana, say they are engaged in a battle against drug trafficking and call the search-and-seizure practice a legitimate use of the state's asset-forfeiture law. That law permits local police agencies to keep drug money and other property used in the commission of a crime and add the proceeds to their budgets.


    "We try to enforce the law here," said George Bowers, mayor of the town of 1,046 residents, where boarded-up businesses outnumber open ones and City Hall sports a broken window. "We're not doing this to raise money. That's all I'm going to say at this point."

    But civil rights lawyers call Tenaha's practice something else: highway robbery. The attorneys have filed a federal class-action lawsuit to stop what they contend is an unconstitutional perversion of the law's intent, aimed primarily at blacks who have done nothing wrong.

    Tenaha officials "have developed an illegal 'stop and seize' practice of targeting, stopping, detaining, searching and often seizing property from apparently non-white citizens and those traveling with non-white citizens," asserts the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas.

    The property seizures are not just happening in Tenaha. In southern parts of Texas near the Mexican border, for example, Hispanics allege that they are being singled out.

    According to a prominent state legislator, police agencies across Texas are wielding the asset-forfeiture law more aggressively to supplement their shrinking operating budgets.

    "If used properly, it's a good law-enforcement tool to see that crime doesn't pay," said state Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate's Criminal Justice Committee. "But in this instance, where people are being pulled over and their property is taken with no charges filed and no convictions, I think that's theft."

    David Guillory, an attorney in Nacogdoches who filed the federal lawsuit, said he combed through Shelby County court records from 2006 to 2008 and discovered nearly 200 cases in which Tenaha police seized cash and property from motorists. In about 50 of the cases, suspects were charged with drug possession.

    But in 147 others, Guillory said the court records showed, police seized cash, jewelry, cell phones and sometimes even automobiles from motorists but never found any contraband or charged them with any crime. Of those, Guillory said he managed to contact 40 of the motorists directly—and discovered all but one of them were black.

    "The whole thing is disproportionately targeted toward minorities, particularly African-Americans," Guillory said. "None of these people have been charged with a crime, none were engaged in anything that looked criminal. The sole factor is that they had something that looked valuable."

    In some cases, police used the fact that motorists were carrying large amounts of cash as evidence that they must have been involved in laundering drug money, even though Guillory said each of the drivers he contacted could account for where the money had come from and why they were carrying it—such as for a gambling trip to Shreveport, La., or to purchase a used car from a private seller.

    Once the motorists were detained, the police and the local Shelby County district attorney quickly drew up legal papers presenting them with an option: waive their rights to their cash and property or face felony charges for crimes such as money laundering—and the prospect of having to hire a lawyer and return to Shelby County multiple times to attend court sessions to contest the charges.

    The process apparently is so routine in Tenaha that Guillory discovered pre-signed and pre-notarized police affidavits with blank spaces left for an officer to describe the property being seized.

    Jennifer Boatright, her husband and two young children—a mixed-race family—were traveling from Houston to visit relatives in east Texas in April 2007 when Tenaha police pulled them over, alleging that they were driving in a left-turn lane.

    After searching the car, the officers discovered what Boatright said was a gift for her sister: a small, unused glass pipe made for smoking marijuana. Although they found no drugs or other contraband, the police seized $6,037 that Boatright said the family was carrying to purchase a used car—and then threatened to turn their children, ages 10 and 1, over to Child Protective Services if the couple didn't agree to sign over their right to their cash.

    "It was give them the money or they were taking our kids," Boatright said. "They suggested that we never bring it up again. We figured we better give them our cash and get the hell out of there."

    Several months later, after Boatright and her husband contacted an attorney, Tenaha officials returned their money but offered no explanation or apology. The couple remain plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit.

    Except for Tenaha's mayor, none of the defendants in the lawsuit, including Shelby County District Atty. Linda Russell and two Tenaha police officers, responded to requests from the Tribune for comment about their search-and-seizure practices. Lawyers for the defendants also declined to comment, as did several of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

    But Whitmire says he doesn't need to await the suit's outcome to try to fix what he regards as a statewide problem. On Monday he introduced a bill in the state Legislature that would require police to go before a judge before attempting to seize property under the asset-forfeiture law—and ultimately Whitmire hopes to tighten the law further so that law-enforcement officials will be allowed to seize property only after a suspect is charged and convicted in a court.

    "The law has gotten away from what was intended, which was to take the profits of a bad guy's crime spree and use it for additional crime-fighting," Whitmire said. "Now it's largely being used to pay police salaries—and it's being abused because you don't even have to be a bad guy to lose your property."

    hwitt@tribune.com
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  2. #2
    not safe for work Blake's Avatar
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    a racist town?

    in Texas?

    I refuse to believe it.

  3. #3
    Come to think of it...... TheThinkingMan's Avatar
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    I think this happens far more often than people realize.

  4. #4
    NWF Summers's Avatar
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    near the Texas-Louisiana border
    Enough said.

    I knew this black woman once who said she and her boyfriend (big, Rasta-looking dude) were driving from Austin to NO and broke down in Vidor. They had no idea what Vidor is. They had the car towed to a shop then found a diner to hang out in while it was being fixed. This cop pulled up, came in, and sat in the booth with them and made small talk. They started to feel really weird about it, so they were like, "Well, thanks, but we're cool; you can go now." And he was like, "Nah, I think I'll hang out here with y'all." They thought they were being totally harrassed, but when they got to NO and told his family what happened they freaked out.

  5. #5
    Where Everything Happens The Franchise's Avatar
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    a racist town?

    in Texas?

    I refuse to believe it.

  6. #6
    D up! exstatic's Avatar
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    "A coach can't change people," Gregg Popovich said before the Spurs obliterated the Nets on New Year's Eve. "They are who they are. No matter what team you're talking about, a coach can be observant and try to put his team in situations both on and off the court where some of that can develop, some of the camaraderie sorts of things. But you can't change people."

  7. #7
    Veteran marini martini's Avatar
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    Enough said.

    I knew this black woman once who said she and her boyfriend (big, Rasta-looking dude) were driving from Austin to NO and broke down in Vidor. They had no idea what Vidor is. They had the car towed to a shop then found a diner to hang out in while it was being fixed. This cop pulled up, came in, and sat in the booth with them and made small talk. They started to feel really weird about it, so they were like, "Well, thanks, but we're cool; you can go now." And he was like, "Nah, I think I'll hang out here with y'all." They thought they were being totally harrassed, but when they got to NO and told his family what happened they freaked out.
    Sounds like the cop sat with them as a favor. To protect them from the "town racists", you think??

  8. #8
    Veteran jack sommerset's Avatar
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    I am surprised that noone came back to that town to pop a cap in one of the pigs.The Mayor said they were doing their part. Serioulsy people get killed doing that shit.

    I got fucked driving through a shithole town in Oklohama last summer. The speed limit was 70. But it dropped to 55 then 100 yards to 30. I get down to 30 but not before a cop pulls me over. He just magically apeared. I had my wife,her mom and my daughter with me. I didn't bitch at all. He asked me whats the hurry and I told him "It went from 70 to 30 all within 200-300 yards. I was slowing down as safe as I could,how fast did you get me for" He had a big time attitude and just started bitching at me. I just tuned him out. I was like ok, no problem. He was a HUGE dick for what was so freaken obvious a speed trap. That town I want to say had about 1500 people and no stop lights.

    Also it was the only speeding ticket I got in 15 years easily. Im 36

  9. #9
    Cold-Ass Honkie RandomGuy's Avatar
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    The modern word "Thug" is derived from an Indian (asia India) word "Thuggee", in which people belonging to what was essentially a theives guild would routinely waylay and strangle wealthy travellers, then distribute their ill-gotten gains to locals, ala Robin Hood.

    The British started hanging them, and the practice evaporated (for the most part), but the impact on the English language remains.

    When police are thugs, they have stopped being worthy of respect.
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    "it is possible that warming for windmills vs. CO2 is about equal, and that the windmills will change the wind/climate in ways worse than CO2 ever could."

    post6568713

    q: So, if I have a box, and I look in, see 3 dice in it, and someone comes along and says that his truth is that there are 4 dice in it, we cannot determine which truth is superior?
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    QUOTE=vy65;6952966] I don't think harming other people is immoral. [/QUOTE

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  10. #10
    Cold-Ass Honkie RandomGuy's Avatar
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    Schertz anyone?

  11. #11
    Goodwill Ambassador spurs_fan_in_exile's Avatar
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    Ahhh, Vidor. My oldest brother stopped there briefly on a road trip. Their group looked like the set up for a joke. My brother is white, and his three friends were a black guy, a Mexican guy, and a Philipino guy. Despite living in Texas his entire life my brother did not know about Vidor's reputation. He was driving and all three of the guys were asleep as he pulled in to gas up. He woke one of them up to go get some drinks while he filled the tank. The exchange supposedly went something like this:

    "TJ, wake the fuck up. You said you need to take a piss an hour ago. Go do that and grab some cokes."

    "Huh? Where are we?"

    "I dunno, Vider or Vidder, I don't know how you pronounce it."

    "VIDOR? WHAT THE FUCK?"

    (The two guys in the back wake up.)

    "Dammit TJ, shut the fuck up, man."

    "Fuck off! Drew stopped in fucking Vidor!"

    "What? Drew, are you trying to get us fucking killed?!?"
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    They came in wave after unrelenting wave, barely any attempt to avoid our fire. It was like no matter the death toll it was all just a game to them. Maybe victory was just a second thought to the little bastards. What they wanted was to see the moment when we broke, when we'd see that no matter how desperate our defense they had already won. But still we stood.

    And now the invaders are gone. Seems as though they are forgotten already. What of us that fought and remain? Do we deserve the same fate as the foe we battled?



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  12. #12
    NWF Summers's Avatar
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    Sounds like the cop sat with them as a favor. To protect them from the "town racists", you think??
    That was the point of the story.

    Edited to make my response slightly less rude.

  13. #13
    NWF Summers's Avatar
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    You're just mad because you got a speeding ticket there last year.

  14. #14
    Killer Dolphin jcrod's Avatar
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    I was amazed how much there is still racism in TX. Some of our workers were doing a job in Silsbee and didn't know if they should drive down to Beaumont or find a motel a little further north. The Mgr at the theatre said whatever you do, don't go north. There is a town up the road that is really racist, supposedly have a sign in the front of the town that reads if you're not white don't stop.
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  15. #15
    Seeking the quiet mind desflood's Avatar
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    I was amazed how much there is still racism in TX.
    Every year we drive up to see my family (MI). My hubby's hispanic, I'm white and we have a bunch of little half-breeds Anywhere we stop north of Dallas there's always somebody willing to give us "the look".
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  16. #16
    RIP whottt. slayermin's Avatar
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    I actually stopped near Vidor once and I knew the town's reputation. But they were friendly to me. The only place I felt like I didn't belong or unwelcome in the south was at a gas station North of New Orleans post Katrina.

    Everywhere in the south, from my experience has been cool.

  17. #17
    Basketball Expertise spurster's Avatar
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    The San Antonio Express News has this story a month ago.

    http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/Pro...s_piracy_.html
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  18. #18
    D.I.R.T.Y. till we die manufor3's Avatar
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    i thought it was dalworthington gardens
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  19. #19
    Black Jesus Xylus's Avatar
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    A hot town in Arizona.
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  20. #20
    bandwagon hater
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    Not really racism in my experience, more just a creepy feeling, and Im white.

    My brother was stationed at Ft. Hood for some time after coming back from Iraq and I used to travel up there taking 281 and passing through Marble Falls. Beautiful place. Well, one time when my mother was still alive, we decided to stop and eat at McDonalds or something like that.

    We sat down to eat and I just got that feeling that someone is looking at you. Mind you, Im just an average guy, no tatoo's or piercings or anything that I dont think would freak people out. I started to look around and I noticed most of the people where looking our way but would avert their gaze as I looked in their direction. I dont know what the fuck was going on but it was like they knew we where out-of-towners. It was fucking creepy as shit.

    The people just seemed like one of those crazy movies where its a whole town of cannibals or something like that. it was wierd.
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  21. #21
    Cinnamon Girl mrsmaalox's Avatar
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    I have some friends who live on a ranch outside of a creepy little place called Hico near Waco. That town has a very racist reputation and is supposedly the seat of the KKK in Texas. The diner in town is called the Koffee Kup Kafe for a reason.
    Another unusual thing is that town only sells "Dublin" Dr Pepper.
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  22. #22
    Since 1979 Das Texan's Avatar
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    Adam Rabel
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    I have some friends who live on a ranch outside of a creepy little place called Hico near Waco. That town has a very racist reputation and is supposedly the seat of the KKK in Texas. The diner in town is called the Koffee Kup Kafe for a reason.
    Another unusual thing is that town only sells "Dublin" Dr Pepper.
    Its not that creepy.

    It only has two Ks on the sign now. On the bank they used to have a lynching scene, they were forced to remove it.

    The Dublin Dr Pepper is because Dublin is in the next county over and due to a licensing agreement that is about 100 years old, there is about a 5 county region that has a licensing agreement with Dublin, whoever ran that place could have any region he wanted and took that 5 or so county region around Dublin. So its not really that its that unusual. Its not the only place to do it, its all about licensing.
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  23. #23
    Since 1979 Das Texan's Avatar
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    and its just as close to the DFW metro area as it is to Waco. Its an hour from each.

  24. #24
    dangerous floater Winehole23's Avatar
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    noneya beezwax
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    I have some friends who live on a ranch outside of a creepy little place called Hico near Waco. That town has a very racist reputation and is supposedly the seat of the KKK in Texas. The diner in town is called the Koffee Kup Kafe for a reason.
    I recommend the homemade pies at the Koffee Kup Kafe.

  25. #25
    Booyakasha fraga's Avatar
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    As soon as you hear, "You got a perty mouth".....RUUUUUUUUN....

  26. #26
    4 Rings JustSpurs's Avatar
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    Its not that creepy.

    It only has two Ks on the sign now. On the bank they used to have a lynching scene, they were forced to remove it.

    The Dublin Dr Pepper is because Dublin is in the next county over and due to a licensing agreement that is about 100 years old, there is about a 5 county region that has a licensing agreement with Dublin, whoever ran that place could have any region he wanted and took that 5 or so county region around Dublin. So its not really that its that unusual. Its not the only place to do it, its all about licensing.
    Dublin Dr. Pepper is the shit. It's made with pure cain sugar instead of corn syrup.

  27. #27
    #SQUAD Red Hawk #21's Avatar
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    Nothin New with these racist fucks, there are racist fucks all over. Trust me I know, my Mom is Cuban and my dad is a Black man. Anytime our family goes places together we consistently get these nasty looks, its just so annoying. I don't care as much as I used to though, racism is for ignorant people.
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  28. #28
    I Got Hops Extra Stout's Avatar
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    I was amazed how much there is still racism in TX. Some of our workers were doing a job in Silsbee and didn't know if they should drive down to Beaumont or find a motel a little further north. The Mgr at the theatre said whatever you do, don't go north. There is a town up the road that is really racist, supposedly have a sign in the front of the town that reads if you're not white don't stop.
    Pretty much the entire rural part of the state east of I-45 is like that.

  29. #29
    Since 1979 Das Texan's Avatar
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    Adam Rabel
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    well its the fucking deep south east of 45 basically, so if you are actually shocked at this you are a fucking idiot.

  30. #30
    #SQUAD Red Hawk #21's Avatar
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    Ahhh, Vidor. My oldest brother stopped there briefly on a road trip. Their group looked like the set up for a joke. My brother is white, and his three friends were a black guy, a Mexican guy, and a Philipino guy. Despite living in Texas his entire life my brother did not know about Vidor's reputation. He was driving and all three of the guys were asleep as he pulled in to gas up. He woke one of them up to go get some drinks while he filled the tank. The exchange supposedly went something like this:

    "TJ, wake the fuck up. You said you need to take a piss an hour ago. Go do that and grab some cokes."

    "Huh? Where are we?"

    "I dunno, Vider or Vidder, I don't know how you pronounce it."

    "VIDOR? WHAT THE FUCK?"

    (The two guys in the back wake up.)

    "Dammit TJ, shut the fuck up, man."

    "Fuck off! Drew stopped in fucking Vidor!"

    "What? Drew, are you trying to get us fucking killed?!?"
    Wow thats some Crazy shit

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