By David Tulis
The attack on the rights of the people in Tennessee comes from several sources. The Tennessee General Assembly through its Drug Control Act of 1989 is one. Another, since October, is Department of Homeland Security’s program of random highway stops.
Fishing for probable cause
A New Jersey insurance adjuster George Reby was assailed by Monterey, Tenn., police officer Larry Bates in a seizure action against Mr. Reby who was stopped Jan. 16 for speeding on a highway going through Putnam County. Mistakenly, he gave consent for his vehicle to be searched as the officer engaged in conversation in an attempt to obtain probable cause from the mouth of his victim.
Mr. Reby tells NewsChannel5.com in Nashville that he was driving into town for a conference when the blue lights pulled him to the shoulder of Interstate 40. Mr. Bates demanded if he had a large amount of cash.“I said, ‘Around F$20,000,’ he told the TV reporter. “Then, at that point, he said, ‘Do you mind if I search your vehicle.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t mind.’ I certainly didn’t feel I was doing anything wrong. It was my money.” Mr. Bates seized the money in a bag, which Mr. Reby said he had pointed out to him. Inside were F$100 bills in rubber-banded rolls.Mr. Bates’ incident report is written in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS and explains his probable cause for seizing the cash for use by his police department. Mr. Reby had a Florida driver’s license yet said he was from New Jersey.
He was “very nervous from the time I conducted the stop by jesters [sic — gestures] he had made inside the vehicle *** and still showed signs of being overly nervous.” The inside of the black Suburban appeared “as it was being lived out of it was very messy.” Mr. Bates asked a series of questions. Did Mr. Reby have any marijuana aboard? No. Cocaine? No. “Mr. Reby interrupted me to say he has never been arrested for anything” (an alleged lie; Mr. Reby had never been convicted of any crimes, though once years ago he’d been charged.) At the question about cash in the car, Mr. Reby said he had about F$20,000 and “showed me a small black duffle bag that was buried under a lot of junk that was in the back.” The officer found tools in the bag, and “I found what appeared to be a large sum of money that was rolled up” in rubber bands. Only at this point does Mr. Reby “consent to a vehicle search,” whereupon the officer “deployed K9 Fonzie,” a drug dog. It’s not clear whether the doors were open when the dog did his sniffaround, but the dog does his search and comes up positive on the part of the car where the bag sits. The policeman explains that in a positive alert “may also indicate items recently contaminated with or associated with, the odor of one or more of the controlled substances” mentioned in earlier rows of all-capitalized type.
In the second half of the single monolithic paragraph of the report, the good officer piles on as to why he concludes the money is connected with drugs. Via telecom he found Mr. Reby had had a cocaine possession arrest in New Jersey. “Mr. Reby did have a criminal history that he tried to hide from law enforcement and did lie about, this further heightens my suspicions ***.” Thorough, the officer examined the GPS, and found it set for the airport in White County. “When confronted with that information he became more nervous.” The officer interrogated the traveler about the man he was going to meet at the airport and what his business was. When the friend, Ted Smith, called Mr. Reby about the rendevous, “this was also very suspicious.” The officer quizzed Mr. Reby about text messages he read on his phone that aroused his suspicion of illegal interests. Mr. Bates wasn’t finished. He demanded to know about his victim’s employment and how he got the F$22,000, and “never did explain how he earned it just stated I earned it.”
The officer goes on to discuss his own skill as an investigator. “I have found in my experience and extensive interdiction training that common people do not carry this much US currency, the way it was concealed inside of a tool bag underneath trash to detour [sic — deter] law enforcement from locating it. In my training and experience, it is a common trend for one who is in the drug trade to bundle there [sic] monies from their sales of contraband, and to lie to law enforcement about their criminal history, it’s common for some one involved in criminal activity to convince law enforcement that they are a good person.”In his report he says based “upon reasonable belief that the said property was used or intended for use to transport, or in some manner facilitate the sale or receipt of contraband goods,” that he should seize it for the department. “Mr. Reby was given a copy of a notice of property seizure and forfeiture. He was also given a state citation for the speeding violation and was released at the scene.”
The paperwork in the case — an affidavit in support of forfeiture warrant, the notice of property seizure, the drug asset forfeiture warrant, the officer’s citation report with its attached photos and the petition for hearing within the Department of Safety — are available from the TV station at its website. This piece of journalism is an example of the sort of work Tennessee big media should pursue as part of its daily fare.
The TV station’s interview with Mr. Reby dissipates the strength of the officer’s suspicions. Mr. Reby had a drug case 15 or 20 years ago, and was not convicted. That means he’s not linked to an illegal act legally speaking. Mr. Reby’s computer indicated he had been bidding on a car via eBay. The reporter rightly pursued the public’s interest in its questioning of Officer Bates. A partial transcript:
“But it’s not illegal to carry cash,” we noted.
“No, it’s not illegal to carry cash,” Bates said. “Again, it’s what the cash is being used for to facilitate or what it is being utilized for.”
NewsChannel 5 Investigates noted, “But you had no proof that money was being used for drug trafficking, correct? No proof?”
“And he couldn’t prove it was legitimate,” Bates insisted. “On the street, a thousand-dollar bundle could approximately buy two ounces of cocaine,” Bates told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
“Or the money could have been used to buy a car,” we observed.
“It’s possible,” he admitted.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Bates if Reby had told him that he was trying to buy a car?
“He did,” the officer acknowledged.
“But you did not include that in your report,” we noted.
“If it’s not in there, I didn’t put it in there.”
So why did he leave that out?
“I don’t know,” the officer said.
A little federal venom
If you thought the “Transportation Security Administration” would limit itself to conducting unconstitutional searches at airports, think again. The agency intends to assert jurisdiction over the nation’s highways, waterways and railroads as well. TSA launched a campaign of random checkpoints on Tennessee highways in October, complete with a sinister military-style acronym — VIP(E)R — as a name for the program.
The agents under Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons deployed at five truck weigh stations and two bus stations. The agency is recruiting truck drivers to assist in surveillance.In 2009 U.S. military forces were given as “observers” at a roadblock in Bolivar, Tenn., according to the Infowars website.“The transition to a police state will not come about with a dramatic coup d’etat, with battering rams and marauding militia,” warns constitutional attorney John Whitehead. “As we have experienced first-hand in recent years, it will creep in softly, one violation at a time, until suddenly you find yourself being subjected to random patdowns and security sweeps during your morning commute to work or quick trip to the shopping mall.”
Ron Paul, a member of the federal legislature and a candidate for president, took notice of the Tennessee program. “As with TSA’s random searches at airports, these roadside searches are not based on any actual suspicion of criminal activity or any factual evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever by those detained,” he said. “They are, in effect, completely random. So first we are told by the U.S. Supreme Court that American citizens have no 4th Amendment protections at border crossings, even when standing on U.S. soil. Now TSA takes the next logical step and simply detains and searches U.S. citizens at wholly internal checkpoints.
“How many more infringements on our liberties, our property, and our basic human rights to travel freely will it take before people become fed up enough to demand respect from their government? When will we demand that the government heed obvious constitutional limitations, and stop treating ordinary Americans as criminal suspects in the absence of probable cause?
“The real tragedy occurs when Americans incrementally become accustomed to this treatment on the roads just as they have become accustomed to it in the airports. We already accept arriving at the airport 2 or more hours before a flight to get through security; will we soon have to build in an extra 2 or 3 hours into our road trips to allow for checkpoint traffic?”