Here’s yet another asset forfeiture horror story. The mayor of Tampa, Florida is now driving around in a vehicle seized from someone last month who hasn’t even been tried yet, much less convicted.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s city vehicle, a jet black GMC Yukon Denali with tinted windows, was seized from a man charged last month with sex trafficking, sexual battery and forcing someone to become a prostitute.
Tampa police seized the SUV on Sept. 28 during their investigation. In addition to transporting prostitutes and the proceeds of prostitution, the SUV was purchased from proceeds of prostitution, police maintain in court documents. In a letter, Fox denied that, saying a cousin’s husband bought the SUV at a Clearwater car auction.
The problem is, Fox was only recently even charged in the case. He may well be guilty of all of those things, but he hasn’t even been to trial yet.
Fox wasn’t arrested back when the SUV was seized, said his attorney, Ty Trayner.
Upon his arrest last month, Fox’s BMW was seized, Trayner said. Although Fox handled the SUV’s seizure himself and lost, Trayner said Fox also will fight to keep the BMW.
Fox is accused of 21 felony counts, including sex trafficking, sexual battery, forcing another to become a prostitute and deriving support from proceeds of prostitution.
The first incident happened in November 2008; the last happened last month, when investigators say he committed a robbery.
He attended a court hearing this morning.
And the mayor says he drives it because he needs it:
“The reason I drive it – number one is because I have a family. I have young kids who travel with me a lot and I need a car that’s safe,” Buckhorn said. “Secondarily, as you can see we often travel with staff and we get a lot of work done while we’re traveling. It’s easy to do work in a larger car. Thirdly, in the event of a hurricane I need a vehicle that can get though high water, get through debris, get me to a zone where we can take care of business.”
So buy your own. Or have the city provide one. You don’t get to just take one from someone on the premise that they committed a crime with it without first convicting them of that crime. That’s nothing more than government theft.
Like Dispatches on Facebook: