Dallas-Area Cops Seize Millions in Cash and Property Every Year, and No One Fights Them

Categories: News

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401Kcalculator.org via Flickr
Anecdotes of civil forfeiture abuse in Texas abound. The most egregious example from recent years probably comes from the tiny East Texas town of Tenaha (population 1,160), where the district attorney and local police teamed up to shake down innocent out-of-town motorists for cash and other valuables worth millions. Near the border, cops were wont to focus enforcement efforts on catching the large amounts of cash headed back to Mexico, all the while more or less ignoring the drugs and weapons flowing the other way; inevitably, innocents were caught up in the dragnet. In 2012, Fort Worth cops kept or attempted to keep 15 cars, trucks, and SUVs seized from TCU students and others involved in a university-centered marijuana ring.

But the real danger of the practice, which allows cops to take possession of ill-gotten gains by filing a lawsuit against it (e.g. State of Texas vs. Three Thousand Three Hundred Twenty-Two Dollars in United States Currency), is not in the flagrant abuses but the insidious way it subverts due process and other protections built into the criminal justice system. The property owner in a civil forfeiture case -- in contrast to a defendant in a criminal case -- has no right to an attorney; he can hire one, but it will be costly and may not be worth it, since the legal bill will often exceed the value of the seized property. There is also no presumption of innocence. It's up to the property owner to prove that his stuff isn't tainted by illegal activity, rather than the state's burden to prove that it is.

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Texas Will Be Majority Hispanic by 2044, Researchers Say

Categories: News

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Center for American Progress
That's the line where Texas becomes majority Hispanic.
Texas became a majority-minority state -- one where whites makeup less than 50 percent of the population -- sometime between 2002 and 2004. There are still more white people than any other ethnic group in the state, and whites still accounted for 57 percent of eligible voters in 2012, but that will eventually change, too.

New data from the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, show just when the bigger demographic tipping points might happen. According to the authors of the study, which has been compiled into a cool set of interactive charts, by 2020 Hispanics will become the largest ethnic group in the state, making up 42 percent of Texans. By 2044, the state will be majority Hispanic and only 31 percent white, the researchers say.

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Rowlett Man Wants Cities to Crack Down on Handicap Parking -- By Hiring His Company

Categories: News

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Damian Morys via Flickr
Rowlett Mayor Todd Gottel, like all decent human beings, hates it when able-bodied individuals (read: assholes) park in handicap parking spots. "It really disgusts me," he says, "because the handicapped deserve the same rights as we have. Those folks that violate that should be ashamed of themselves and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law."

Therein lies the problem. Handicap parking violators are rarely brought to justice. Cops in Rowlett seldom have the time to comb the city's parking lots looking for offenders. (In certain neighboring cities, which Gottel claims knowledge of but declined to name, police have given up on handicap parking enforcement entirely.) Rowlett, per an obscure provision of the state's transportation code, deputizes citizen volunteers to write handicap parking tickets, but even that has a limited effect since the volunteers, mostly retired senior citizens, are instructed to avoid confrontation and are usually saddled with other duties -- manning special events and the like.

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New Dallas Police Reports System Isn't Bad, Cops Say. The Old One Was Too Good.

Categories: News

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The mystery of the missing narratives. Ever since the Dallas Police Department's public reports system came back online after a more than month-long hiatus last summer, it's been on everybody's -- well everybody who, you know, could use this sort of thing for a blog post or whatever -- mind. Only the most basic details about whatever crimes happened in Dallas overnight are available now, much to the chagrin of Unfair Park and crime-watch block captains everywhere.

Now, by way of a presentation prepared by the DPD for the Dallas City Council's public safety committee, we at least know why. According to the report, the system that pulled public information from police reports made before June 1, 2014 disclosed too much.

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Details Emerge In Flower Mound "White Power" Sign Incident

Categories: News, The 'Burbs

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WFAA
The results of Lewisville ISD's investigation into "White Power" signs in the Flower Mound High School student section during last Friday's basketball game against Plano East are in. And what did the district find? Basic dumbassery among young idiots.

Surprise!

Here's the timeline, according to the district:

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Video Shows Dallas Speed Trap Cop Going Wrong Way on Central

Categories: News

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Christine Pham via Facebook
Unsafe at any speed.
Adding insult to financial injury, a video posted on the Dallas Police Department's Facebook wall Wednesday shows a cop, apparently after giving a ticket, traveling the wrong way on the U.S. 75 service road.

According to the woman who took the video, Christine Pham, the reversing cop pulled this move several times Tuesday as he monitored speeds between Fitzhugh Avenue and Blackburn Streets.

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Liberty Institute Helps Dallas Orthodox Synagogue Defeat Neighbors' Attempt to Close It

Categories: News

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Eric Nicholson
Rabbi Yaakov Rich, flanked by Liberty Institute lawyers Jeff Mateer (right) and Justin Butterfield, speaks to reporters after his synagogue's court victory over a homowners association.
Rabbi Yaakov Rich wasn't trying to initiate a battle for religious liberty when he moved his living-room synagogue into the Highlands of McKamy neighborhood in Far North Dallas; he was simply trying to fulfill the spiritual needs of his tiny flock while keeping them from having to walk a half-marathon every Sabbath day. The only other Dallas area congregation that hews to Rich's particular flavor of Orthodox Judaism is Ohr HaTorah Shul, seven-plus miles to the south. Plus, another Orthodox group had already encircled the Highlands of McKamy inside a ritualistic ring of PVC pipe and wires, creating a two-square-mile eruv, inside of which believers are allowed to carry things -- house keys, medication, children, etc. -- outside of their homes on the Sabbath.

Rich had established Congregation Toras Chaim in 2007. For its first four years, CTC met in a small house on Hillcrest Road, just outside the boundaries of the Highland of McKamy homeowners association. In 2011, it moved a few blocks away to Rich's living room, inside the HOA boundaries. At the end of the summer of 2013, it moved another couple of blocks to 7103 Mumford Court into a suburban-style brick home recently purchased by Rich's friends Judith and Mark Gothelf.

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Governor Greg Abbott Declares Today Chris Kyle Day, Pissing Off Groundhogs Everywhere

Categories: News

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Cpl. Damien Gutierrez
Chris Kyle signs a copy of his book, American Sniper.
In a speech at the Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars Mid-Winter Convention, Governor Greg Abbott announced that today is Chris Kyle Day.

Kyle, the so-called American Sniper, was killed February 2, 2013, by former Marine Eddie Ray Routh at a shooting range.

Kyle recorded more than 160 kills during the four tours he served in the second Iraq War. He claimed several more after his stateside return, including a series of looters he said he picked off from the roof of the Superdome in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, according to reporting done by Nicholas Schmidle for The New Yorker in 2013

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Former DA Craig Watkins Now Trolling for DWI Clients Using Hotmail Account, Making Us Sad

Categories: News

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Remember, back a few years ago, when Craig Watkins' reputation as a crusading do-gooder district attorney was still relatively intact? When he could credibly present himself -- on The Colbert Report for example -- as someone helping to restore public faith in the criminal justice system?

In case you needed a reminder of just how far Watkins' star has fallen, he provided one last night in an email blast to supporters.

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Human Rights Campaign Won't Defend Plano Equal Rights Ordinance

Categories: News

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Plano Citizens United via Facebook
Plano's anti-discrimination ordinance is under attacks from all sides. Four local state representatives plan to introduce a bill that will void the ordinance as well as any similar laws passed by other cities. The Texas Pastor Council has collected 7,000 signatures in an attempt to force the Plano City Council to either recall the measure or put it on the ballot in May. Now, the Human Rights Campaign, the United States' largest LGBTQ political advocacy group, has announced that it will not fight to preserve the ordinance.

Cathryn Oakley, the HRC's legislative counsel for state and municipal advocacy, told the Texas Observer that her organization couldn't defend the ordinance because it doesn't provide appropriate protections for transsexual individuals.

Under the law, certain organizations, like nonprofits and schools, are allowed provide different services based on anatomy rather than gender identity. Schools, for example, could require a transsexual teen boy to use the women's restroom or vice versa. The idea that allowing trans individuals to use the bathroom of their choice will lead to trouble or violence is an old, debunked canard of the pro-discrimination set.

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