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December 18, 2007 - Lima News (OH)

Editorial: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Luther Ricks Sr., to put it mildly, is living the American Nightmare. What else can you call it when police take your money because they're suspicious you're selling drugs, then fail either to file charges or to return your money?

Public pressure isn't likely to help Ricks get back what is his. Ricks needs a lawyer - but the government has depleted his means of hiring one. What he also needs is his congressman to try to intervene on his behalf. U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, should involve himself in pressing the FBI to return the money to his constituent.

The Lima Police Department, which originally seized Ricks' money, cannot get it back from the FBI.

Two robbers broke into his home June 30, attacking Ricks and his son. One of the robbers stabbed Ricks' son. Ricks broke free and shot to death one of the attackers, 22-year-old Jyhno Rock.

A man's home is his castle, after all -- well, at least when it's not the government that's doing the busting in. The American Nightmare has only begun.

Lima police took $402,767 Ricks had in his house because they found a small amount of marijuana, which Ricks said he uses to manage pain from arthritis, shingles and a hip replacement. Ricks, 63, said he and his wife, Meredith, saved the money over their lifetimes, during which both worked but never opened a bank account.

The American Nightmare continues.

The FBI then took the money from the Lima Police Department. Ricks has not been charged with a crime for the marijuana. He has been cleared in the shooting death of Rock. Yet the FBI doesn't intend to give him his money back.

Jeff Gamso, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, told The Lima News that Ricks has a tough fight ahead of him. "The law of forfeiture basically says you have to prove you're innocent. It's a terrible, terrible law," Gamso said. That's not hopeful -- for Ricks or for the American tradition.

That stuff about innocent until government proves you're guilty? Forget it in this police state that the federal government, particularly the FBI, seems to believe we should be living in.

Never mind Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution, which stipulates, " The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment; shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by law have directed."

Ricks received no trial, but the government can just seize his money? Based on what? The belief he might be guilty of something. It's up to Ricks to provide evidence the money in his possession was his. So much for being innocent until the government proves you're guilty.

Never mind that the same Constitution's Fifth Amendment states that no person "shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."

Again, the government is depriving Ricks of both property and the liberty that money helps provide, based on a hunch it doesn't even intend to attempt to prove.

This isn't about legalizing drugs, even for medicinal purposes.. This is about whether the government should be able to take a hunch and turn a constitutional right on its head by making the accused prove he is innocent.

This is bad news for every one of us.

December 18, 2007 - Lima News (OH)

Man Wants His $400k Back From the FBI

By Doug Sowinski

LIMA - Two robbers who broke into Luther Ricks Sr.'s house this summer may have not gotten his life savings he had in a safe, but after the FBI confiscated it he may not get it back.

Ricks has tried to get an attorney to fight for the $402,767 but he has no money. Lima Police Department officers originally took the money from his house but the FBI stepped in and took it from the Police Department. Ricks has not been charged with a crime and was cleared in a fatal shooting of one of the robbers but still the FBI has refused to return the money, he said.

"They are saying I have to prove I made it," he said.

The 63-year-old Ricks said he and his wife, Meredith, saved the money during their lifetime in which both worked while living a modest life.

A representative of the FBI could not be reached for comment.

During the fatal shooting incident inside the house June 30, Ricks and his son were being attacked by two men and his son was stabbed. Ricks broke free, grabbed a gun and shot to death 32-year-old Jyhno Rock inside his home at 939 Greenlawn Ave.

Police originally took the money after finding marijuana inside Ricks' home, which Ricks said he had to help manage pain.

"I smoke marijuana. I have arthritis. I have shingles, a hip replacement," he said.

Ricks, who is retired from Ohio Steel Foundry, said he always had a safe at home and never had a bank account.

American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Legal Director Jeff Gamso said Ricks has a tough road ahead, not impossible, but tough to get back his money.

"The law of forfeiture basically says you have to prove you're innocent. It's terrible, terrible law," he said.

The law is tilted in favor of the FBI in that Ricks need not be charged with a crime and the FBI stands a good chance at keeping the money, Gamso said.

"The law will presume it is the result of ill-gotten gains," he said.

Still Ricks can pursue it and possibly convince a judge he had the money through a lifetime of savings. Asking the FBI usually doesn't work, he said.

"The FBI, before they would give it up, would want dated receipts," he said.

If the FBI does keep the money, it would be put toward a law enforcement use, if the city of Lima does not fight for it because the city discovered it, Gamso said.

Lima Law Director Tony Geiger said he has not been asked to stake a legal claim for the money.

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