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Monday, October 19 was an interesting day for justice reform in Virginia! I was pleased to gather with activists from the Southwest Virginia Tea Party at the Shoney's in Bristol, Virginia to talk about justice reform. We then traveled to the county courthouse for a GOP meeting where their state senator, Bill Carrico was going to address questions asked in the letters he has been receiving about civil asset forfeiture. On October 8, we had gathered to write letters to Senator Carrico.
Senator Carrico began his remark by stating that he was there "to set the record straight and to inform about how you are misinformed about my actions." During the recent session of the Virginia legislature, Senator Carrico helped kill a civil asset forfeiture bill that had been sent from the House to a committee on which he serves. One by one, activists rose to speak to Senator Carrico to address their concerns about Virginia's civil asset forfeiture statutes.
Doug Fleenor: Senator Carrico explained the need for asset forfeiture by saying that "we are dealing with major drug dealers, terrorists, and al-Qaeda." Doug Fleenor responded, "We can't beat down every bad person in the world. We have got to stand for liberty! They [the police] are encouraged to [abuse civil asset forfeiture] because it feeds the beast [brings in money]! Is getting one out of ten bad guys worth trampling on the rights of individuals?"
Jim Spivey: "Asset forfeiture without a conviction is against the Virginia Constitution. Virginia ranks fifth in abuse of asset forfeiture!"
Carl Richardson: "Civil asset forfeiture violates both the United States Constitution and the Virginia Constitution. We need you to stand up and hold the other legislators to reform of civil asset forfeiture!"
Joe Ferrell: "Will you push it? When will [a reform bill] come up again ?"
Don Waterman: Senator Carrico had stated that he could not find even one example of civil asset forfeiture having been used in the state of Virginia! Don Waterman asked the Senator if he had not heard of Mandrel Stuart. There are numerous examples of asset forfeiture abuse in Virginia. The Mandrel Stuart story was widely publicized. Mr. Stuart was stopped by Fairfax County Police. The owner of a small barbecue restaurant in Staunton, Stuart had nearly $18,000.00 in cash that he planned to use to purchase equipment for his restaurant. The police seized the cash, alleging that the money was connected to drugs.
Stuart was never charged with a crime. After a lengthy legal fight, Stuart was able to get his money back but lost his business in the process. Senator Carrico responded that he had not heard of Mandrel Stuart and wrote down information provided by Don.
Senator Carrico shared that he had learned a number of things and had gotten some new ideas about ways to reform civil asset forfeiture, during the Q&A with activists. He also stated that he had a lot of questions. Of course, I was happy to let him know that FreedomWorks will be happy to assist him with his civil asset forfeiture questions!