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Robbery on the King’s Highway in East Texas? Driving through Tenaha, Texas, doesn’t pay for some

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-texas-profiling11-2009mar11,0,507135.story
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, Ohio, 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 or convicted of any crime. Officials in Tenaha, situated along a heavily traveled state highway connecting Houston with several popular gambling destinations in Louisiana, say they are engaged in a battle against drug trafficking, and they 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 about 1,100 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 seeking unspecified damages and a halt to what they contend is an unconstitutional perversion of the law’s intent, used primarily against African Americans who have done nothing wrong. Reporting from Tenaha, Texas — You can drive into this dusty fleck of a town near the Texas- Louisiana state line 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: Sign over your belongings to the town, or face felony charges of money laundering or other serious crimes.
tenaha

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March 11, 2009 - Posted by | Police State Brutality

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