Is This The America You Want To Be Living In?
A couple has been accused of a crime, and they were going to pay the estimated $500,000 it would cost for their defense from a home-equity line of credit -- until the government stopped them from having access to it.
Jacob Sullum writes at reason about Kerri and Brian Kaley, accused by the government of trafficking in stolen medical devices, though the government is unable to find any actual victims of their supposed crimes:
The Supreme Court is now considering whether the Kaleys have a constitutional right to challenge the order blocking access to their money before it's too late to mount an effective defense.
...Technically, the government has not taken the money yet; it has merely "restrained" it, along with the rest of the home's value, in anticipation of a post-conviction forfeiture. But the result is the same for the Kaleys: They can no longer afford to pay the lawyers they chose and trust, the people who have been representing them for eight years and are familiar with the details of their case.
Those details are puzzling. Kerri Kaley, who had a job with Ethicon selling medical devices to hospitals in the New York area, knew that hospital employees periodically would ask the company's sales representatives to take overstocked or outmoded devices off their hands. Seeing an opportunity to make some extra money, she and some of her colleagues began selling the devices, which no one else seemed to want, to a distributor in Miami.
Neither Ethicon nor any hospital has come forward to complain that its property was stolen. Yet the federal government brought criminal charges against Kaley, her colleagues, and her husband, who had helped ship the devices and deposited some of the revenue in his business account.
...The only Ethicon sales representative who has been tried so far- who was able to hire the lawyers she wanted, since her assets were not frozen-was acquitted after less than three hours of deliberation. Two other sales representatives pleaded guilty and received sentences of five and six months, respectively, although the judges in both cases wondered aloud who the victims were.