Friday, April 7, 2006

no reason to smile

washington state has been in the news quite a lot lately with its crime, justice and voting issues, but shocking stories continue to emanate from the pacific northwest. the latest one to catch my attention is an article in the seattle times about two men facing federal drug charges in tacoma. apparently, federal prosecutors and officials from the bureau of alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives attained a warrant to seize the "grills" or gold-capped teeth from the mouths of the suspects.

the two suspects were told the government had a warrant to seize their grills and that they were being taken to a dentist in seattle for removal. they both managed quick phone calls to their attorneys before being loaded into a vehicle. they were on their way to the dentist in seattle when their attorneys persuaded a judge to stop the seizure.

grills, typically made of precious metals and jewels, come in several different styles. some snap onto teeth like a retainer and are easily removed; others are permanently bonded to the teeth. the two suspects in this case had permanently bonded grills. federal prosecutors claimed that they did not know the grills were permanently bonded to the suspects' teeth. A spokeswoman for the u.s. attorney's office explained: "Asset forfeiture is a fairly routine procedure, and our attorneys were under the impression that these snapped out like a retainer." federal prosecutors abandoned the seizure attempt when they understood that the removal of grills could damage the defendants' teeth.

i'm not entirely sure i believe the prosecutors' story, given that they were taking the suspects to a dentist to have the grills removed. if they thought the grills just snapped out, would a trip to the dentist have been necessary?

at any rate, this case is highly disturbing. an expert of forfeiture law claimed he had never heard of anything like this in his 30 years in the field. i'll give him the last word on this post:
"This is especially egregious because these two had not been convicted and are presumed to be innocent," added forfeiture expert Troberman, who is not involved in the case. "What are they going to do next? Start taking artificial limbs from amputees?"

No comments: