The Department of Justice Is Mad at a Georgia Sheriff

Spending $70,000 on a Dodge Charger Hellcat

The U.S. Department of Justice is demanding Georgia Sheriff Butch Conway reimburse $70,000 for his purchase of a 707 horsepower Dodge Charger Hellcat, which has been deemed too “extravagant” of a purchase.

Sheriff Conway’s office paid $69,258 for the Hellcat back in April. The purchase was made with asset forfeiture funds and was initially approved by the Department of Justice under its “equitable sharing program,” according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Research the Dodge Charger on MSN Autos

Here’s the department’s reasoning, via the Journal-Constitution:

Guidelines prohibit “the use of equitably shared funds for extravagant expenditures,” the DOJ’s letter, dated July 10, said. “The vehicle in question is a high-performance vehicle not typically purchased as part of a traditional fleet of law enforcement vehicles.”

The department was also suspicious of the Hellcat’s described use as Sheriff Conway’s personal car coming to and from work, and for undercover and covert operations.

But the Gwinnett County Sheriff doesn’t agree with the Department of Justice and has defended the purchase. Here’s more from the Journal-Constitution:

Conway, who has been sheriff since 1996, is standing behind the purchase.

“Sheriff Conway maintains that this vehicle is an appropriate purchase, especially for an agency with a $92 million budget and the opportunity this vehicle provides in making our roadways safer,” Deputy Shannon Volkodav, a sheriff’s office spokeswoman, said in a written statement, according to The Atlanta H.


The sheriff’s Hellcat application touted the high-powered vehicle’s potential use in Gwinnett County’s Beat the Heat program, a nonprofit that uses drag races in controlled environments to “educate drivers about the dangers of distracted driving and illegal street racing.”

Regardless, county officials have agreed to reimburse the Department of Justice for the vehicle and will introduce new reviews in the equipment acquisition process. The deadline is July 31, and the sheriff offices’s forfeiture funding has been frozen until the reimbursement is made.

Ethical issues of a program that uses asset forfeiture funding to assist taxpayer money for equipment acquisitions aside, it’s hilarious that the Sheriff’s main defense for buying himself a Hellcat to drive around in is that the Department of Justice has too much money to care. Must be nice.







The Ninth Circuit Protects large Capacity magazines


Every now and then the — arguably the nation’s most progressive federal circuit — can offer up a legal surprise. Yesterday, it gave us a legal shock, when a divided panel of its judges affirmed last year’s federal district-court injunction temporarily blocking enforcement of California’s confiscatory ban on so-called large-capacity magazines.

Under California law, any person who possesses a legally purchased magazine capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition must either remove the magazine from the state, sell it to a licensed firearm dealer, or hand it over to law enforcement. Those citizens who retained their magazines after the law went into effect risked a fine or up to one year’s imprisonment in county jail.

The district court’s 66-page opinion was a legal tour-de-force that not only dismantled California’s justifications for the ban, but also reiterated and reinforced the constitutional and historical basis for the right to keep and bear arms. This paragraph from the district-court opinion is nearly-perfect:

Violent gun use is a constitutionally-protected means for law-abiding citizens to protect themselves from criminals. The phrase “gun violence” may not be invoked as a talismanic incantation to justify any exercise of state power. Implicit in the concept of public safety is the right of law-abiding people to use firearms and the magazines that make them work to protect themselves, their families, their homes, and their state against all armed enemies, foreign and domestic. To borrow a phrase, it would indeed be ironic if, in the name of public safety and reducing gun violence, statutes were permitted to subvert the public’s Second Amendment rights — which may repel criminal gun violence and which ultimately ensure the safety of the Republic.

Lest anyone think that the Ninth Circuit has suddenly discovered the original meaning of the Second Amendment, its ruling upholding the district-court injunction was limited. It merely held that the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion when it temporarily blocked enforcement of the law. But despite the limited holding, there was encouraging rhetoric in the court’s ruling.

For example, the appeals court held that the lower court “did not exceed its permissible discretion by concluding, based on those cases, that (1) some part of the Second Amendment right likely includes the right to bear a weapon ‘that has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia’ . . . and (2) the ammunition for a weapon is similar to the magazine for a weapon.”

Much of the modern argument over gun control revolves around the effort to label certain kinds of semi-automatic rifles (and magazines over ten rounds) as “military style” weapons that are effectively unprotected by the Second Amendment. Yet the Ninth Circuit’s language — rooted in the history of the amendment — links constitutional protection to a weapon’s potential militia use. In other words, the “military style” moniker actually connects the guns in question to the historic purpose of the right to bear arms.

If the Court takes the case (and that’s far from certain; SCOTUS has been reluctant to review recent Second Amendment decisions), it will have an opportunity to reset the gun-control debate.

Combine this standard with Heller’s clear statement that the Second Amendment was intended to protect weapons in “common use” for “lawful purposes like self defense,” and one begins to see that merely comparing AR-15s or Glocks to military weapons doesn’t render them unprotected. Instead, their common ownership, combined with their “reasonable relationship” to militia use, should enhance, not diminish, their constitutional status.

While gun owners in California can breathe a temporary sigh of relief, the fight is far from over. As David Kopel notes in a good piece over at Reason, California may petition for en banc review (don’t expect the wider panel of Ninth Circuit judges to rule so favorably), or the trial court may issue a permanent ruling in the weeks or months ahead. Either way — sooner or later — this case will reach the Supreme Court, and it may very well be Brett Kavanaugh’s first chance to look at a serious gun-rights cert petition, assuming he is confirmed to the Court.

If the Court takes the case (and that’s far from certain; SCOTUS has been reluctant to review recent Second Amendment decisions), it will have an opportunity to reset the gun-control debate. If it rules that weapons in common use for lawful purposes enjoy categorical constitutional protection, then most assault-weapons bans and large-capacity-magazine bans would fall. Prohibitions against the sale of “dangerous and unusual” weapons (machine guns, for example) would remain.

But all that’s speculation. For now, hundreds of thousands of California gun owners remain law-abiding. They don’t have to face the choice between surrendering the magazines that help keep their families safe and complying with a confiscatory law. Already, there were indications of passive resistance. As the Sacramento Bee reported last year, “Talk to gun owners, retailers and pro-gun sheriffs across California and you’ll get something akin to an eye roll when they’re asked if gun owners are going to voluntarily part with their property because Democratic politicians and voters who favor gun control outnumber them and changed the law.”






Ten veterans charities that allegedly misused millions of dollars in donations are facing sanctions from California amid a nationwide crackdown on organizations that appear to manipulate the public’s goodwill for military service members.

The biggest alleged offender was Help the Vets, a charity that reportedly misused $20 million it raised over four years and did not make good on its promises to help veterans.

Some of its fundraising appeals promoted a veteran suicide prevention program that did not exist, according to an injunction released by the Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Trade Commission.

The charity’s promotions used urgent language, such as, “22 VETERANS WILL DIE EACH DAY UNLESS WE DO SOMETHING.” The number refers to Department of Veterans Affairs studies that estimate 20 to 22 veterans take their own lives every day.

“While donors dug deep into their pockets in response to pleas for assistance, Help the Vets paid its president, Neil G. Paulson, Sr. hundreds of thousands of dollars and spent more than 88 percent of every dollar donated from 2014 through 2016 … paying for-profit fundraisers,” the injunction reads.

The injunction bans Help the Vets from soliciting charitable contributions and must surrender its remaining $70,000 in assets. Its founder, Paulson, must pay $1.75 million to be donated to legitimate veterans charities, according to a settlement he signed in late June.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the sanctions on Thursday in Sacramento. Similar press conferences took place across the country. Every state is participating in the crackdown.

“We will continue to protect veterans,” California senior assistant attorney general Tania Ibanez said. “We will continue to go after charities that are using veterans in order to solicit. And so for those of you that are out there that are using the names and the good works that veterans are doing for our nation, watch out. We’re looking at you, we’re going after you.”

As part of the campaign, Becerra announced sanctions against nine other organizations that reportedly misused donations that were intended to help veterans. Some of the settlement agreements sanctioning the nonprofits date back to last year, but they were unveiled along with the Help the Vets injunction.

Paulson, a onetime candidate for mayor in Orlando, ran several other organizations under Help the Vets that promoted specific veterans services. Two of them pledged to help veterans diagnosed with breast cancer, but did not provide any money to those veterans.

“Despite raising over $776,000 for this specific purpose, Help the Vets did not make a single grant to a veteran with breast cancer. It had no programs that provided aid to U.S. veterans suffering from breast cancer or offered grants for screening, mammography, surgery, chemotherapy, or follow up care for veterans fighting breast cancer,” the injunction reads.

Becerra said his office is applying additional scrutiny to other veterans charities. More than 500 veterans charities are delinquent on filing mandatory annual financial reports with the state, Becerra said. Over half of all veteran-related charities are in violation of registration requirements and face suspension and tax penalties if the organizations fail to remedy their infractions within 30 days.

The Federal Trade Commission and the states attorneys general also announced a public awareness campaign, called Operation Donate with Honor, that aims to teach people to recognize and avoid abusive solicitation practices.

Becerra encouraged Californians to file complaints against fraudulent practices but to continue to donate to legitimate charities.

“If you’ve taken appropriate precautions, maybe the most important tip that we can give you: please continue giving. Part of what makes California so strong is the generosity of our people, but let’s make sure our generosity actually goes to the people we’re trying to help. There are legitimate charities out there that help our family members and our neighbors, who give or have given service to our nation. My office aims to give you the tools to find them.”