Highway Robbery

G. Gordon Liddy used to enjoy using the term “prison guards” rather than “corrections officers” on his radio show. Inevitably, guards would call in to defend their “profession” and chastise him for his choice of labels. He would then remind them that they chose to go into a “profession” that required them to look into the anus of other men. Things got ugly from there, but it was fun radio. It was also a good point. We decorate job names in order to conceal them. The classic is calling garbage men sanitary engineers.

A bigger point is that the sorts of people who go into these jobs are often as unpleasant as the job we’re trying to conceal. There are not a lot of soft, sophisticated men hanging off the back of garbage trucks. The guys guarding animals in cells are just as mean and nasty as the people they guard. They just know how to obey the rules. Similarly, cops are more often than not criminals with a badge and a gun. It’s obvious when you see stories like this one.

The two men in the rented red Nissan Altima were poker players traveling through Iowa on their way to Las Vegas. The police were state troopers on the hunt for criminals, contraband and cash.

They intersected last year on a rural stretch of Interstate 80, in a seemingly routine traffic stop that would soon raise new questions about laws that allow police to take money and property from people not charged with crimes.

By the time the encounter was over, the gamblers had been detained for more than two hours. Their car was searched without a warrant. And their cellphones, a computer and $100,020 of their gambling “bankroll” were seized under state civil asset-forfeiture laws. The troopers allowed them to leave, without their money, after issuing a traffic warning and a citation for possession of marijuana paraphernalia that carried a $65 fine, court records show.

Months later, an attorney for the men obtained a video of the stop. It showed that the motorists were detained for a violation they did not commit — a failure to signal during a lane change — and authorities were compelled to return 90 percent of the money.

This is nothing more than piracy. In the age of sail, governments would quietly grant permission to pirates to attack the shipping of their enemies. The British made a big show of chasing pirates, but they employed many of them. Today, states grant their police the right to rob people on the highways, seize their property and demand ransoms from them. Fighting the system is often not worth the trouble. Drug dealers are not suing the state for their drug money back so they keep quiet.

Now the men are questioning the police tactics in an unusual federal civil rights lawsuit. In the suit, filed Sept. 29, William Barton Davis, 51, and John Newmer­zhycky, 43, both from Humboldt County, Calif., claim their constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and seizures were violated. They also contend the stop was part of a pattern connected to the teachings of a private police-training firm that promotes aggressive tactics.

Davis is a professional poker player, and Newmerzhycky worked as glass blower, according to court records. In an interview, Davis said the men felt as though they were being “stalked” by the police.

If allowed to proceed, the lawsuit could illuminate the widespread but little-known police practice known as “highway interdiction.” The suit names Desert Snow, the Oklahoma-based training firm, and its founder, Joe David, court records show. It also names the two Iowa State Patrol troopers who participated in the traffic stop and were trained by Desert Snow.

Desert Snow’s lead instructor, David Frye, said the lawsuit has no merit and contains “outrageous” and “inaccurate” accusations.

There’s a lot of make work in a society and ours is overflowing with it. This company training cops to shake down civilians on the highway should never exist. His company exists because of the laws that permit this sort of theft from people by the police. There are armies of diversity trainers, human resource managers, insurance consultants, etc., who exist solely because the law creates a need for them.

The rest of the story is worth reading. Three quick points come to mind. One is never talk to a cop unless required by the law. They are just criminals with badges so they should be treated as such. Yeah, I know, most are just doing their job. But some are not and you can’t know that. Cooperate with crooks like the two in the story and you could find yourself in jail while they find a way to steal your property.

The other thing that comes to mind is how these laws have not been challenged in court. Even in our degenerate times, due process is enforced. Stealing someone’s property and making them sue to get it back should never stand in court. We’re a mess as a country, but we’re not North Korea. At the minimum, the state should be required to get permission from the court to seize property.  In this case that would probably have stopped the whole thing before it got to the search.

Finally, later in the story the cops raid the guy’s home and find weed. They charge him with possession and a stack of other crimes that are all the same thing. Sandbagging has gone so far out of control even misdemeanor offense end up filling a page of the charging document. Come to find out they had a permit to grow their own weed. This is what we see all the time now. Charge/arrest first and force the citizen to prove they are innocent. We are now government by highway men.

7 thoughts on “Highway Robbery

  1. I travel quite a bit and have been stopped many times for no reason other than to be searched. The cops always say the exact same words: “Do you mind if I search your car?” That line must work on almost everybody since every damned one of them gets confused when I refuse to consent to the search.

  2. “It showed that the motorists were detained for a violation they did not commit — a failure to signal during a lane change — and authorities were compelled to return 90 percent of the money.”

    This is outrageous. No crime committed–as if changing lanes without signalling could be a crime–and they lose ten grand? There has to be more to the story but whatever happened to “fruit of the poisonous tree?”

  3. So much of policing today revolves around stopping people in their cars. I guess it’s a relatively safe and effortless way to make a buck.

    I haven’t been a big fan of the notion of driver-less cars, but they might have an interesting side effect. Presuming that driver-less cars are built to adhere strictly to the rules of the road, police forces may find their cash-cow gutted.

  4. Re: the prettification of mundane job descriptions. My favourite takedown of this trend was something I read long ago: “A garbage man will smell the same, though we pass a law requiring us to call him Philosopher King.”

  5. I got my drivers license in 1958. I do a lot of driving in the mid-Atlantic region. Back roads are my favorite, but some trips require toll roads and interstates.

    Equipped with a performance enhanced HEMI powered pickup truck, the most reliable radar/laser detector and millions of miles under my belt, I haven’t had a traffic stop in decades.

    Until…three weeks ago traveling East around Carlyle on the Pennsylvania Turnpike I was nabbed. The trooper approached the driver’s window and said: “Sir, this stop is being recorded on audio and video. The speed limit is 70, you were going 86. Can I have your license and registration?” I handed over the documents and he returned to his car.

    About five minutes later he appeared at the window and said. “This is not a traffic citation, there will be no points on your license. This(holding up a sheet of paper printed out in his car) is a violation of vehicle codes blah-blah, and blah.”

    The fine was $25.00, the added costs brought the total up to $127.00. So there you have it. No points, no problem, no reason to get excited. Just pay-up, shut-up and be on your way. It’s all about the money. The nicest mugging a guy could ask for.

    • PA is outlandish with the fees. I got hit the same way years back. They had a group of trainees running a radar trap at the bottom of a hill. They pulled over at least twenty cars while I was getting my $150 warning. It is highway robbery.

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