by Bill Simon
HB 56: Purposely Designed for Subterfuge & Misdirection
If you were to go on Yahoo, Google, or Bing search engines, and type “kevin tanner habersham baby” in the search bar, what will display is a wide assortment of article titles of the following nature:
“Tanner proposes bill to limit no-knock warrants”
“NE Ga lawmaker files “Baby Bou Bou bill”
“Bou Bou” family gratified as Georgia considers no-knock …”
“Toddler Maimed by SWAT Flash Grenade Sparks Georgia Bills on ..”
After scanning the article and reading some of them, you MIGHT have concluded that the legislation is an attempt to limit “bad results” like the Habersham County incident in mid-2014 where Bou-Bou was burned by a flash-grenade tossed into a room by SWAT executing a no-knock warrant on a house where they received a tip from a source of drugs being sold out of the house. (A case currently under investigation by the US Attorney’s Office)
You might have concluded that, and I don’t fault you for that…because that is what I assumed the bill was going to attempt to do. But, this bill, as written now, does nothing that will address the problems with law enforcement personnel executing a no-knock warrant. Absolutely NOTHING to prevent preventable death and/or injury to both Law Enforcement Personnel (“LEO”) and innocent people who are involved in such a process through absolutely no fault of their own.
HB 56 is a bill designed to white-wash decades of judicial activism that enabled LEO to obtain and execute illegal search warrants, which are referred to as “no-knock warrants” in the common environment. HB 56 is a whitewash because it actually amends current law to define “no-knock warrants” where no such term currently appears, and it obliterates the existing law (OCGA 17-5-27) that prohibits warrants that allow no verbal announcement from LEO before they breach a door.
This is what existing Georgia law is with regards to Search Warrants:
OCGA 17-5-27. Use of force in execution of search warrant
All necessary and reasonable force may be used to effect an entry into any building or property or part thereof to execute a search warrant if, after notice, an attempt in good faith to give verbal notice by the officer directed to execute the same of his authority and purpose:
(1) He is refused admittance;
(2) The person or persons within the building or property or part thereof refuse to acknowledge and answer the verbal notice or the presence of the person or persons therein is unknown to the officer; or
(3) The building or property or part thereof is not then occupied by any person.
As no-knock warrants have been being executed in Georgia (like the one in 2006 that killed an innocent homeowner Kathryn Johnston during a drug raid on her home in Atlanta, and many others, “no-knock” means “no verbal notice given at all.”
How did the LEO community obtain these illegal search warrants? They went to their respective jurisdiction’s judges and concocted a bunch of weak evidence (a “tip” by a known criminal in every case I will discuss), and then they added language (likely what they learned by watching Crockett & Tubbs on Miami Vice reruns) to the Warrant Request that would make the judge think that a full-on violent breach of the home is fully justified, and the judge would sign-off on them being allowed to ignore OCGA 17-5-27.
And, so, now, State Rep Kevin Tanner is on the verge of amending Georgia law to make no-knock warrants easier to obtain without any repercussions to “bad acts” by LE in the execution of those warrants. (Yeah. “Subterfuge” is an understatement,right, Rep. Tanner?)
State Rep. Kevin Tanner
People may or may not be aware that Georgia State Representative Kevin Tanner spent about 18 years in law enforcement, working for the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office (“DCSO”) prior to being elected state rep from that neck of the woods. Most of the readers of the Political Vine are familiar with an incident back in August of 2014 involving an officer with the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office named Captain Tony Wooten. (If you are not familiar, go to the PoliticalVine.com website, and type-in “PumpkinGate” in the Search bar on the right-side of the site, as there are several stories about this incident in Dawson County).
Now, Kevin Tanner was not present at the PumpkinGate incident…however, coincidentally, his direct history as a law enforcement officer with the DCSO is connected to both this story involving Wooten, as well as HB 56.
In this article I wrote regarding the cover-up by the DCSO personnel on Wooten’s acts in PumpkinGate, I described a document I had received via Open Records filings with the DCSO. That document is referred to as “G-335D: OFF-DUTY, EXTRA-DUTY EMPLOYMENT.”
In that article, I detailed what the “written policies” are that DCSO personnel who are on Off-Duty or Extra-Duty are to follow when engaged in any kind of law-enforcement-related activity while not being “On-Duty.”
And, basically how Wooten, who was on Extra-Duty, had not followed those written procedures, and how Sheriff Carlisle and Major Goodie also simply ignored those written procedures as well to help cover-up Wooten’s actions.
So, how does Rep. Tanner fit into all this? The original Word document of G-335D that I was emailed from the DCSO was last touched by…”Kevin Tanner” who had last revised it on June 6, 2009. (Here is a link to that original Word Doc that has his name as the “Author”).
So, Kevin Tanner knows fully well exactly the kind of bullsh*t, do-nothing language he sticks into the language of HB 56 that (Lines 118-121) gives people like Wooten and EVERY OTHER LEO the right to give the middle-finger to any violations of any LE department’s “written policies” as follows:
<“The failure to comply with written policies adopted pursuant to paragraph (3) of subsection (e) of Code Section 17-5-21 shall be considered a technical irregularity within the meaning of this Code section.”
“Technical irregularity?” You mean “technical irregularity” of ignoring this part of your new language via HB 56 (Lines 63-74), Rep. Tanner:
“(e)(2)(A) The law enforcement agency that employs the officer seeking such warrant has adopted written policies for using no-knock that comply with paragraph (3) of this subsection;
“(e)(2)(B) It requires execution between 6:00 A.M. and 10:00 P.M., unless the judge for good cause expressly authorizes execution at another time; and
“(e)(2)(C) The affidavit or testimony supporting such warrant establishes by probable cause that if an officer were to knock and announce identity and purpose before entry, such act of knocking and announcing would likely pose a significant and imminent danger to human life or imminent danger of evidence being destroyed.
“(e)(2)(3) Not later than September 1, 2015, any law enforcement agency that may seek a no-knock shall adopt guidelines and procedures that shall include, but shall not be limited to:”
Just call it for what it is, State Rep. Tanner. Do you have the balls to do that? Calling the ignoring of written policies a “technical irregularity” is an OPEN INVITATION (just like what your pal Tony Wooten and your other pals at the DCSO did, and continue to do) for every single law enforcement officer and/or LE Department in this state to ignore their “written policies” and ratchet-up the no-knock warrants and kill and maim and beat anyone to death that they please in their fervent efforts to collect their asset forfeiture plunder. Which leads me to…
Asset Forfeiture: The Racket
Nowhere in the language of HB 56 is any reference to “asset forfeiture.” But, yet, I know (as does Kevin Tanner…and every prosecutor, former or otherwise, and every LEO in support of this bill knows) it is the reason why Rep. Tanner is proposing this bill. NOT to “save lives” or any such other bullsh*t lies coming from Tanner, et al. who supports this bill. Those claims are all part of the subterfuge. And, any legislator who has co-sponsored the bill is either as fully knowledgeable as Tanner is, or they are gullible to believe every word he says. (Legislators? Gullible? Say it ain’t so!)
Want proof? Consider the case in Habersham County in mid-2014: A petty criminal acting as an informant to the Habersham Sheriff’s office claimed that he had purchased drugs from the occupant living at the house. A “tip” from one crook is enough “probable cause” for a SWAT team to be armed to the gills and get a no-knock warrant to raid a house? Really? Why the f*** are cops now relying on ONE CROOK’S word that illicit activities are occurring at a house in order to justify their acts?
Were drugs found? Nope. Was someone harmed who didn’t have a gun and body armor? Yep, an 18-month old baby sleeping in a crib in the house.
Why would cops just take the word of a crook? A person who kinda…sorta…has a record of being deceptive? Because, this is what very likely went on in the mind of the lead drug investigator when he got this “tip”: “Drug dealer?….Money…lots of money…Drug dealers have lots of cash on them….we can hit that house, get evidence of the drugs…and confiscate under asset forfeiture ALL the money and property in that house. Let’s get that judge to sign-off on the no-knock so we can ALL have a pay-day in this county!!!”
And, how do I have any inkling as to what went thru that guy’s mind (along with his direct report’s mind)? Because of the extremely callous nature of the Habersham County’s Sheriff who uttered these words in relation to incident: “Bad things can happen. That’s just the world we live in.”
No, Sheriff of Habersham County. YOU and your asset forfeiture-hungry LEOs caused that “bad thing to happen.” That was no ‘Act of God’ like a tornado is.
And, not even a glimmer of responsibility from that guy. Is that the type of environment that you are okay with, Rep. Tanner? How about you, Rep. Golick?
Rep. Efestration? Is that what you learned working for DA Danny Porter?
If the FBI agents tasked with investigating the Habersham County incident were smart, they should check into all the bank accounts that the Habersham County Sheriff has access to. Because I’ll bet dozens of donuts that there is some illicit activity going on with bank accounts in that jurisdiction that causes people like that sheriff to remark in such a callous way about the injury his actions caused that resulted in no crime being discovered that justified that injury.
See, I bring-up bank accounts because part of the proposed amendment of Georgia’s asset forfeiture law in 2013 involved controls put on sheriffs and other LEO chiefs on how they could handle their “pirate finds” of money and assets.
From my 2013 story on this issue, here are some aspects that the Georgia Sheriffs Association found of particular concern with (and, then-Association President/Sheriff Howard Sills of Putnam County getting quite…angry on camera) the 2013 proposed legislation…and, when people get angry like Sills did, to me it signified something else was going on that he wasn’t going to let the committee know:
“HB 1 clarifies some current provisions regarding reporting and eliminates confusion over what the funds may be used for by explicitly defining the specific use of money confiscated — the same as federal law.
“HB 1 will create more transparency and accountability by strengthening the mandatory reporting requirement of all law enforcement agencies.
“HB 1 strikes a much needed balance in forfeiture law by protecting individual property rights and public safety against those involved in criminal enterprises. “
You see, the Sheriffs’ Association didn’t like the prospect of people looking over THEIR shoulder at their accounting of finances and money collected via asset-forfeiture processes. And, the Prosecuting Attorneys Council (then-represented by DA Danny Porter on that hour-long video linked in the comment regarding Howard Sills’ testimony) certainly didn’t want any interruption of their sharing of the plunder with their local sheriff’s operations.
Then, there’s the incident in Laurens County in late 2014 that involved the killing of an innocent homeowner named David Hooks. Here’s the short synopsis of that incident: A thief (yes, another crook) picked-up by Laurens County LE for stealing from David Hooks told the cops that a car that he stole from Hooks had a bag containing 22 grams of meth in it…thus implying that Hooks was involved in drug distribution.
Did the Laurens County cops think “Hmmm…maybe we need to stake this guy’s house out and see if we can catch him in the act?” NOPE! They get a no-knock warrant, suit-up in their fancy-dancy federally-issued SWAT toy attire and proceed to raid the house, and kill David Hooks. You can read the fuller story on this link, but the fact of the matter is, as was reported in multiple news sources, no drugs, not even a nanogram (a billionth of a gram) was found in Hooks’ house after the cops murdered him.
Even the GBI came on that scene and helped searched the house…and not a trace of drugs was found.
In stories you can find on the Web about this incident in Laurens County, they remark how successful a businessman David Hooks was. My contention is that the Laurens County cops knew exactly who David Hooks was, and exactly how wealthy he was…and that the following is very similar to what went thru the mind of that Sheriff (and his fellow LEOs) to justify his department’s acts in getting the illegal (according to Georgia law now) no-knock warrant: “Rich guy….really rich mother-f***er…we can get ALL his assets, his house, his bank accounts, his cash in the house…rich guys like that always have money in their houses….he’s likely got a safe with thousands of dollars in it..that’s going to be OUR money! Let’s raid this f*cker’s house and get OUR PAY DAY!!!”
Because, if they had found ANY drug in that house, by way of asset forfeiture laws in this state, all of David Hooks’ property and bank accounts could be tied to “drug distribution” and all would have ALL become the Sheriff’s own Pirate Booty. To use in any manner he (and his other county pals…the DA…the judges…the county commission…whatever and whoever he wanted to share it with) decided.
I’m sure that since the Institute for Justice has been exposing outlandish uses of forfeited assets (several notable ones in Georgia), a lot of the more outlandish uses of money from asset forfeiture-based raids has gone “underground” so to speak by these sheriffs and other LE organizations. But, like termites, just because you cannot always see them, you know that there is abuse going on with both the raids (like these two previously discussed in Georgia) and the handling of all that confiscated money and property…all confiscated because they claim “We’re here to make you, Joe/Jane Public, safer.” Yeah, right.
How HB-56 Should Be Written
So, let me reiterate the main point you need to understand (“you” being everyone concerned with their life and limb in Georgia) about HB-56: It will actually put into the Official Code of Georgia the “no-knock warrant” law that does not exist now. Rep. Tanner (and his fellow co-sponsors, gullible or not) are intent on allowing more no-knock warrants to be issued under the specific guise of “protecting more people” while at the same time inserting a CYA note that allows the cops to ignore their required “polices”, call it a “technical irregularity”, and proceed to MURDER ANYONE THEY DARN WELL PLEASE. (Hey, Sheriffs gotta pay the bills, right? Go for that asset-forfeiture route whenever you can, how ever you can accomplish it, right?)
If you go back in time to the Atlanta City PD incident involving a nice black lady named Kathryn Johnston in 2006, you might be surprised to find out that the “tip” those cops reportedly acted upon to bust down her door was also from a “police informant.” You know what the street-definition of a “police informant” is? It is a crook…a criminal himself/herself!!!
So, since the common thread in Georgia appears to be that the cops are ALL operating (2006, mid-2014, September 2014,etc.) from “tips” they receive from people who have a proven track record of LYING, it kinda seems to me….I don’t know…maybe I’m reaching here…I’m just going to go out on a BIG limb here and say that the qualifications are not stringent enough in the evidence/tips that cops receive, is it?
I know this: Reform the asset-forfeiture law, and a lot of these bullsh*t, killing of innocent people incidents will come to an abrupt halt. (But, that will happen right after Barack Obama declares himself a Republican, right?)
So, barring the reformation of asset-forfeiture laws to remove the obvious temptation from going thru the mind of the crooked-minded, blood-thirsty sheriffs (and any other LEO in Georgia) who do NOT give a damn about anything but making headlines and capturing someone else’s assets , golly, what other ways could we reduce these types of incidents from happening? How about:
1) Rather than allow police to ignore written policies, require them to a) develop them, and b) require every LEO to read them, and c) require every LEO to follow them or else get charged with a felony. After all, they’re the ones with the gun, licensed by the State to enforce the law. Why should they not be required to FOLLOW a law designed to protect the innocent among us?
2) Require that more evidence from OTHER than a criminal be required by law to be offered for proof that the intended target poses a danger to the officers intent on breaching the door without an announcement of why they want to come in. Something like…three independently-verified sources? Is the life of the next David Hooks not worth that kind of insurance? (Or, do just “bad things happen?”)
3) You know what the best option is for HB 56? Kill it. Its design is to specifically allow more innocent killings to occur in the hope of capturing more money and assets from others. That is its specific purpose, plain and simple.
Tomorrow (February 18, 2015) there is a hearing on HB 56. This bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, chaired by Rep. Rich Golick (a co-sponsor of HB 56). Don’t know which room the hearing is being held or at what time, but below is a list of the members of this committee, along with their House Office phone numbers. If you are concerned with HB 56, and its repercussions, you should call these folks’ offices below, and tell them (or whoever will take your message since they will not likely have time to call you back) how you feel about more no-knock warrants being legalized in Georgia:
Rich Golick (Chairman): 404.656.5943
B.J. Pak (Vice Chairman): (404) 656-0254
Dustin Hightower (Secretary): 404.657.1803
Stacey Abrams 404.656.5058
Alex Atwood (404) 656-0152
Mandi Ballinger 404.656.0254
Christian Coomer 404.651.7737
Sharon Cooper 404.656.5069
Pam Dickerson 404.656.0314
Micah Gravley 404.656.0325
Dar’shun Kendrick 404.656.0109
Matt Ramsey 404.656.5024
Nikki Randall 404.656.0109
Bert Reeves 404.656.0287
Ed Setzler 404.656.7857
Brian Strickland 404.656.0109
Robert Trammel 404.656.0314
Anything else that Tanner claims, or any LEO, or any DA, or whoever appears before this committee hearing tomorrow in support of this legislation claims is part of the “agenda of misdirection” for this bill.
If you want a more eloquent presentation on the hazards of this bill, you can read this piece authored by Catherine Bernard (who is way nicer than I am in presentation) regarding the long history of rights that citizens have (going back 400 or so years) regarding being secure in their own home:
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