Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Anatomy of a Highway Patrol Heist

Last June, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals placed its imprimatur on a stunt pulled by the DEA and Oregon's Deschutes County Sheriff's Department: The police staged an elaborate phony carjacking in order to seize a car from a suspected drug courier. The driver and his companion were deposited in a nearby hotel while the police rummaged through the vehicle, eventually finding a substantial quantity of narcotics.

Oh, sure: The police could have obtained a warrant to search the vehicle based on evidence they had already obtained.* But this would have deprived them of the chance to indulge their adolescent desire to play “Punk the Perp.”

While a three-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit Court insisted that the search resulting from this elaborate deception didn't violate the Fourth Amendment, Judge Raymond C. Fisher did express some misgivings over the precedent being set. “I do not ... mean to endorse this police action as a model for future creative seizures,” caviled Fisher in his concurring opinion.

Why not?” I asked in reply to Fisher's limp attempt at pre-emptive damage control. “If this operation [involving a staged carjacking] was utterly copasetic from a constitutional point of view, why shouldn't it serve as the template for countless others just like it? In any case, Ray baby, it's too late: You and your comrades have just green-lit countless similar projects to be carried out by the Feds and their local franchisees, who are in pre-production as we speak: Storylines are being broken, scripts are taking form, and auditions are underway, casting couches are being defiled....”

Actually, the puerile little deceptions I described were already being staged before last June's decision. One of them involved Ben Peech, a 10-year veteran of the Wyoming Highway Patrol and president of the State Highway Patrol Association.

"Good morning, Ma'am. I'm conducting a pretext stop in the hope of finding something in your vehicle worth confiscating."

Last April 7, Peech phoned in a bogus report to REDDI (Report Every Drunk Driver Immediately), Wyoming's DUI hotline, to create an excuse for him to be on patrol at 3 a.m. Wyoming State Troopers generally don't operate after midnight, and Peech was concerned that the subjects of a sting he had arranged with a “confidential informant” from the DEA might be scared away.

To maintain the pretense, Peech had his DEA colleague phone in a second phony DUI tip. He also urged the REDDI dispatcher to omit his name from the call log – a request the dispatcher refused to grant.

At 3 a.m., Peech stopped a Dodge pickup driven by Rusty Boschee of Elk Grove, California. At the time, the vehicle was traveling four miles an hour over the posted 75 mph limit on I-80. A search turned up about $3.3 million in cash and several cell phones. Boschee and his passenger denied that the money belonged to them, but emphasized the obvious point that its rightful owner would be upset if it didn't arrive.

Although no narcotics evidence was found, Peech arrested Boschee and his passenger and confiscated the money. The driver and his companion were later released, but the Feds announced their intention to “forfeit” -- that is, steal – the cash. (A recent federal court decision -- .pdf -- held that “possession of a large sum of money” by a motorist “is `strong evidence' of a connection to drug activity,” and thus grounds for summary forfeiture.)

So what happened here was this: Trooper Peech committed at least three crimes – making a false DUI report, suborning a second, and attempting to induce the dispatcher to submit a bogus call log – in order to create a pretext for a traffic stop. And to defend this fraud, Peech has invoked the same Ninth Circuit Court decision mentioned above.

This incident took place last April. On October 9, Peech was fired by the Wyoming Highway Patrol, which described him of “flagrant” misconduct. In the termination letter to Peech, Highway Patrol Administrator Col. Sam Powell wrote: “Your actions discredited you and the [Highway Patrol] and the REDDI program.”

For his part, Peech insists that the firing had nothing to do with misconduct; rather, it was an act of retaliation for his involvement in creating a local lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police. He points to the time lag separating his offense from his termination as evidence of bad faith.

[T]here is no doubt in my mind at all that it was retaliatory,” complains Peech. “It is totally unheard of for something to come back from that far back.”

What – you mean there was an ulterior motive at work, and that the police officials who fired Peech acted on a pretext? But police never do that kind of thing.

Interestingly, both Peech and veteran police experts agree that fraud and deception are perfectly acceptable law enforcement tools. Peech's mistake, apparently, was using those tools on a freelance basis, rather than obtaining appropriate permission from his supervisor.

People get arrested for making false reports,” observed Edward Mamet, a law enforcement consultant who spent 40 years with the NYPD. “ If he did that without supervisory approval, there's no excuse for that.” (Emphasis added)

Retired police chief Andrew J. Scott, who also works as a consultant, insists that Peech's mini-crime-spree displayed “initiative,” but faults the Trooper for “not passing this on to his supervisor and getting approval.”

As far as Peech is concerned, the entire affair is pointless. Everything he did must be appropriate, 'cause it's just what the cops do on TV.

I'm serious.

The fact of the matter is, and everyone knows it from watching TV, the cops are allowed to use subterfuge and things like that to protect informants in an investigation,” Peech insists.

In the action movie unspooling in the very tiny theater of Ben Peech's mind, he's the tough but honest cop, a loose cannon who plays by his own rules.

Yeah, sure: He has to bend the law every now and then, but he stays true to his own moral compass.

Yeah, this is harsh -- but we're at war with crime, and sometimes corners just have to be cut.

Sometimes that means he gets cross-wise with the suits and the desk-bound supervisors who have forgotten what it's like out there: Nine times in the past ten years, Peech has been reprimanded for various infractions; he earned a written reprimand for firing his shotgun into the floorboards of his patrol car, and was briefly suspended on two other occasions for damaging the vehicle.

But that's just how TROOPER PEECH rolls, man. And you better hit your knees each night in abject gratitude that there are guys like him on the Thin Blue Line!

... or something like that.

So now that refugee from a direct-to-video action flick has been fired for failure to get official sanction for his acts of official fraud. Doesn't this mean that the money stolen from Boschee's truck should be returned?

Well... no.

We're not going to stop pursuing the forfeiture action at this time,” sniffed John Powell, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in Wyoming.

Which is to say: The Feds consider themselves entitled to keep that cash, despite the fact that the only documented crimes in this entire episode were those committed by the State Trooper who seized it.

[Thanks to the anonymous fact-checker on the comments thread for correcting my error regarding the location of Deschutes County: It is in Oregon, rather than in Washington, as I had mistakenly written.]

Good Cop News

Ramon Perez, an exemplary police officer who was fired by the Austin, Texas Police Department for refusing to use his Taser needlessly against a non-violent, elderly suspect, has been named "Civil Libertarian of the Year" by the Central Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The award recognizes Perez "for his courage, bravery and unwavering commitment to protect the Constitution and serve with integrity."

Officer Perez, a Christian lay minister of conservative theological and political views, was deemed to be morally unsuitable for police work because of his refusal to carry out a clearly illegal and unconstitutional order from a superior. The suspect in question was taken into custody without violence, and the use of a Taser in that situation would have violated the APD's explicit departmental policy.

A clinical psychologist working for the department, who examined Perez on a pretext (there's that word again!), insisted that he had an excessively "well-developed set of personal beliefs ... based primarily on his religious beliefs" that detracted from his ability to perform as expected -- which, in this specific case, meant that he would follow the orders of a superior, rather than the Constitution and the law.

Officer Perez informs me that the lawsuit he has filed against the department "is gaining momentum. We expect to go to Fedral Court Western District this June."

One Last Thing...

Just a few days ago I made this prediction:

"Write this down in ink: Ron Paul, who harbors no detectable rancor toward anyone of woman born and goes to exceptional lengths to treat everyone with respect, will be smeared as a `hater.' This is chiefly because of the genuine hatred – born out of fear – he inspires in many who have made their peace with the Power Elite. Their reasoning – if we can torture that word into applying here – would be this: `Obviously he's a hateful man, or else we wouldn't hate him so.'”

No, my middle initial doesn't stand for "Nostradamus"; it wasn't necessary to be some sort of seer to foretell what has since come to pass.

What is really interesting is to see how the larger prediction in that essay -- that Ron Paul's supporters would be traduced as an "America-hating" Fifth Column -- was fulfilled, and that the chief vessel of this libel is that flatigious ass-hat Glenn Beck, who denounces us (I'm hardly an undecided voter) as a "domestic enemy" that might be dealt with by the military.


*My point about a search warrant is offered with the tacit disclaimer – herewith made explicit – that all enforcement actions in the so-called “War on Drugs” are constitutionally indefensible, since the counter-narcotics enterprise itself is fundamentally illegitimate.

Dum spiro, pugno!


wes amateur said...

Ah yes, the use of "guilt by implication" to discredit honorable men. Glen "train wreck" is a pompous whore for the media. A true tory and loyalist.

dixiedog said...

Obviously he's a hateful man, or else we wouldn't hate him so.

Obviously this is post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning. It's also in essence saying: "He hates me, ergo I hate him."

However, even if one contorts and/or mangles the meaning of "hate" in their mind to such a degree into assuming the former is accurate, it would still be wrong to make that a causation for the latter.

Of course, that's a decidedly Christian worldview coming into play there.

That said, speaking about "hate" and "extremism" and "neo-Nazism" and ad nauseam, there's also Ron Paul's Jewish Problem with which he must contend.

Why is it that a messenger seems to nearly always be judged by observers based on either 1) who is attracted to the message, or 2) the character of the messenger, rather than on the substance of the message itself? And in Ron Paul's case, number two obviously can't be conveniently utilized for the purpose of judging Dr. Paul negatively, so the sundry statists have been forced to resort to number one.

With the logic of number one, a Christian missionary working diligently in some locale who manages to attract a prostitute, a drunkard, a thief, a neo-Nazi, a racist, a gangster, et al, to a saving knowledge of the Truth via their message from the Word could likewise be so judged.

Humans collectively are rather irrational creatures who ironically can also "rationalize" anything.

Anonymous said...

(I'm whispering here.)Psssst.......Will. Deschutes county is in central Oregon, not Washington.

-Boy Gilligan

Anonymous said...

Is the War in Iraq Justified?

WHAT: Iraq War Debate between Will Grigg and Bryan Fischer with
Glenn Ferrell moderating the debate

WHEN: Friday November 16, 2007 at 7:00pm

WHERE: The College of Idaho, Langroise Center Recital Hall
The best parking for this event is in the Jewett Parking
lot off of College Ave. Caldwell, Idaho

straightarrow said...

All I can say with certainty is that if anything of mine is seized without proof of its illegitimate gain, the thief will be dealt with accordingly.

If the people who seize it are the police, then that pretty much leaves it to me, doesn't it?

I remember being a lonely voice some decades ago when RICO and other asset forfeiture (without due process) laws were passed. All the people I knew,said "They're not after us, they're after "those other people", meaning of course, criminals.

No one would listen when I would explain that to the law makers and their enforcement thugs,"We" were those "other people", simply because we weren't them.

This was done with almost universal support and acceptance of the American public. They are now reaping what they have sown. I however, refuse to live by those rules and will not. If insistence by the state that I personally be subject to them is visited upon me, there will be no recourse within the law. That does not mean there will be no recourse.

Jozef said...

Sorry to break it to you, but the western policemen have way too many scruples about searching cars. They should take advice from their colleagues in Atlanta, where the cops shut down a major highway and searched cars for a bank robber. Gold quote:

"Any time you get on the highway and use the highway you are considered to have consented to a stop ... and consent to being detained and asked questions."

Anonymous said...

Don't be too sad about that Wyoming cop being fired. He can now draw unemployment benefits, stay at home, and post on Free Republic to defend cops who shoot men armed with hairbrushes and taze 98 year old ladies when they get out of line.

Anonymous said...

Amazing that a journalist can print stories without getting the proper information! Until this journalist grows up a little more and has experienced life in America with even our elementary kids on drugs, in gangs, and bearing arms, and gotten his facts a little clearer about what actually happened in each incident and where each of these happened, I STRONGLY SUGGEST HE KEEP HIS BIG MOUTH SHUT!!!! Hitler was rather biased also, but at least we don't go around tooting his 'ideas' about what did or did not happen. GROW UP!!

Anonymous said...


It was already late fall and the Indians on a remote reservation in South Dakota asked their new chief if the coming winter was going to be cold or mild.

Since he was a chief in a modern society he had never been taught the old secrets. When he looked at the sky he couldn't tell what the winter was going to be like.

Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, he told his tribe that the winter was indeed going to be cold and that the members of the village should collect firewood to be prepared.

But being a practical leader, after several days he got an idea. He went to the phone booth, called the National Weather Service and asked, "Is the coming winter going to be cold?"

"It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold," the meteorologist at the weather service responded.

So the chief went back to his people and told them to collect even more firewood in order to be prepared.

A week later he called the National Weather Service again. "Does it still look like it is going to be a very cold winter?"

"Yes," the man at National Weather Service again replied, "it's going to be a very cold winter."

The chief again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every scrap of firewood they could find.

Two weeks later the chief called the National Weather Service again. "Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very cold?"

"Absolutely," the man replied. "It's looking more and more like it is going to be one of the coldest winters we've ever seen."

"How can you be so sure?" the chief asked.

The weatherman replied, "The Indians are collecting firewood like crazy."

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Some fodder for you, Will:


Pictures of said incident here:


jwags said...

After viewing the Glenn Beck video posted here, I went to his CNN.com web page to see if the poll about Ron Paul was still posted. I didn't find it there, but I did notice links to a few Mitt Romney interviews. I'm sure Glenn Beck has several motivations for criticizing Ron Paul, but it appears that promoting Mitt Romney might be one of them. Looks like the LDS connection strikes again.

MOT said...

To Mr. "anonymous" talking about journalists.... Just what in the world ARE you talking about? And as far as kids on drugs in skrool... Take them out! Seems you value your pocket book and the convenience more than their lives.

Anonymous said...

Oregon took some hits in this piece. However I'd like to point out that the confiscation in question could not have happened in Oregon, as it did in Wyoming. Oregon voters passed an initiative a while back making civil forfeiture (without a conviction) illegal - despite wailing and gnashing of teeth from police departments. Get the point guys and gals? At this late date even the general populace is fed up with RICO. Those in Oregon anyway (which has a population showing libertarian tendencies at times).

Anonymous said...

I'm a criminal defense attorney in Wyoming and Colorado. We have a long history with Officer Peech. The WHP should have canned his ass years ago.

Anonymous said...

Wow, nothing like accusing Lew Rockwell of being wholly committed to the radical Islamic cause! I mean, that must be the *hidden* part of the website that the general public can't access.

And, let's not mention the historical context for the Gunpowder Plot -- the latest development in a cycle of violence of persecution between Protestants and Catholics over the previous decades.

Of course, all this is coming from a man who regularly used to speak on his radio program of wanting to beat people to death with a shovel.