County Fails to Convict Alleged Dogfighter, Goes After Property

In AZ, Pima County is trying to seize property belonging to Emily Dennis:

Dennis was arrested in February 2008 as part of a major investigation by the Pima County Sheriff’s Office and the Humane Society of the United States into a multi-state dog fighting ring. Officers raided four separate properties, seized hundreds of dogs and arrested six people, including Dennis.
But Dennis and her partner Mahlon Patrick were acquitted by Judge John Leonardo in November. 

Acquitted.  So what up with the land grab?

County officials said that just because Dennis was acquitted of the charges doesn’t mean she wasn’t breaking the law.

Deputy County Attorney Kevin Krejci said there is nothing unusual about pursuing civil forfeiture of assets, even when a defendant has been acquitted of criminal charges.

Now I didn’t go to law school but as I understand it, acquitted=not guilty.  If  county officials think someone is guilty of violating the law, there’s a remedy for that.  It’s called prosecution.  How it goes (on TV at least) is the county conducts an investigation, collects evidence, obtains an indictment, presents the case in court and asks the judge or jury to accept the case as having been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  If the prosecution fails to convince a judge or jury of the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant will be acquitted.  

I appreciate there are two sides to every legal case and that one side will inevitably be unhappy with the outcome.  And I understand that a civil case is different from a criminal case.  But I am a strong supporter of individual property rights in our country and I  get concerned when government appears to be attempting to subvert our 4th Amendment rights.

The defendant response:

Thomas Higgins represents Emily Dennis.

[…]

According to court records, the Pima County Attorney’s office is pursuing a civil forfeiture case against two pieces of property. One of them is located in Picture Rocks, just west of Tucson.

[…]

These empty kennels are where the more than one hundred pitbulls taken last year used to live.

Note:  All but a handful of the dogs were killed before the owners had their day in court.  

Back to the attempted property seizure:

Thomas Higgins says the state will have a hard time proving the property has illegal ties. “I sent them an extensive packet of the money trail about where the money came from to buy it.”

I don’t like the idea of government failing to make its case legally and so pursuing property seizure in civil court.  It gives the appearance of our government attempting to use its resources (our resources) to pursue individual citizens whom they were unable to obtain legal convictions against and strip them of their property rights.  To my mind, if the government is conducting an investigation into criminal activity like dogfighting, they should take the time to do it right and present a solid, evidence based case in court.  I am all for convicting and punishing scumbag dogfighters to the full extent of the law.  

I’ve always held our government to the highest possible standards because we the people demand it.  I want to respect our government officials and to be treated with respect by them.  By necessity, that includes respect for our rights as property owners. 

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