- Obama military strategy too weak for future security, panel reports
- Sen. Tom Coburn vows to slow down budget-busting bills ahead of recess
- Obama fantasizes about more executive power, signs new order on federal contractors
- Clintons call Klein, Halper, Kessler ‘a Hat Trick of despicable actors’: report
- Boehner accuses Obama of ‘legacy of lawlessness’
- Pro-marijuana group claims responsibility for Brooklyn Bridge flag swap
- Young adults shun Obamacare mostly due to cost: survey
- Stabbing attack on transgender girl, 15, was ‘bias motivated,’ police say
- LGBT adults still lean overwhelmingly toward Democratic Party
- Lawmakers rattled by Syria genocide horrors, call on Obama to act
High court sides with government on frozen assets
Question of the Day
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court decided Tuesday that people whose assets have been frozen amid suspicion of illegal activity have no constitutional right to a hearing to plead for access to their money to mount a defense against criminal charges.
The justices voted 6-3 against a New York couple who have been indicted on charges they stole medical devices. The government froze their assets, including the $500,000 they set aside for their legal defense.
The Supreme Court has previously upheld the government’s ability to put a hold on property and money that can be tied to illegal activity, but had never ruled whether defendants are entitled to a hearing first. Lower federal courts were divided over whether a hearing is necessary.
The issue is especially salient because the Justice Department is seizing more property than ever. More than $4.2 billion was deposited in the Justice Department’s asset forfeiture fund in the government spending year that ended Sept. 30, 2012. That compares with about $1.6 billion in each of the two previous years.
Kerri and Brian Kaley, the couple at the center of the case, maintain they are innocent. They said they are at least entitled to a hearing to determine if they can use their money to fight the charges.
But Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court that a grand jury already had found enough reason to indict the Kaleys and prosecutors froze money that could be tied to the allegations against the couple.
Allowing a judge to review the grand jury’s indictment would undermine the criminal justice system, Kagan said.
“The Kaleys here demand a do-over, except with a different referee,” Kagan said.
In dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts said that a defendant “might readily give all he owns to defend himself” so that a government order freezing his assets is serious business.
He said the court should not have allowed a defendant to “be hobbled in this way without an opportunity to challenge the government’s decision to freeze those needed assets.” Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor joined the dissent.
The Kaleys were ensnared in a federal investigation into the resale of medical devices in 2005. Kerri Kaley was a sales representative for a company that sold surgical devices and supplies. Her lawyers say she was legally allowed to resell items that hospitals wanted to replace with newer and better equipment. The hospitals were happy to get the items off their shelves and Kaley’s employer did not want them back.
Still, the husband and wife, who live in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., were indicted in 2007 on conspiracy and other charges. Two other sales reps pleaded guilty, but yet another was acquitted by a jury.
The case is Kaley v. U.S., 12-464.
TWT Video Picks
By Donald Lambro
The president writes off jobless Americans who have given up
- Inside the Ring: Israel surprised by Hamas tunnel network
- Army's 3-D printed bombs to create 'a whole new universe' of lethal capabilities
- Chicken pox outbreak puts illegal immigrant facility on lockdown
- GOP leaders delay border bill, leave Obama in control
- Report: 40% of weapons sent to Afghanistan are unaccounted for
- CRUZ: A tale of two hospitals: One in Israel, one in Gaza
- Bill Clinton audio surfaces from Sept. 10, 2001: 'I could have killed' Osama bin Laden
- CIA admits improperly hacking Senate computers in search of Bush-era information
- Israel surprised by Hamas tunnel network
- Colorado poll shows women tuning out Democrats' 'war on women' strategy
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world