Elian Gonzalez Seizure Case Not Isolated; Federal Government Frequently Violates the Rights of Innocent Americans

New Book Details Many Cases of Federal Agents Wrongfully Arresting Americans in a Heavy-Handed Manner

The shocking scene of U.S. Border Patrol Agents pointing an automatic weapon at 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez and the fisherman who saved him is unfortunately a frequent occurrence in the United States today. A book released this month by The National Center for Public Policy Research has documented numerous cases in which federal agencies wrongfully arrested Americans, raided their homes and seized their businesses for crimes they didn’t commit.

The National Directory of Environmental and Regulatory Victims lists 100 stories of personal tragedy, including stories of innocent citizens who were unjustly targeted by federal agencies employing their own police forces in a heavy-handed manner. A few examples:

* North Carolina businessman Earl Peck was arrested by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Agents in a SWAT-like raid in1995 for allegedly selling bear meat illegally, although the meat had been purchased from a USDA-inspected supplier and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture found nothing illegal. Although a U.S. Attorney dropped all charges, Peck was unable to re-open his once-thriving business because of uncertainty over what the federal government might do. He is now financially ruined.

* Last year, U.S. Marshals burst into the Pittsburgh home of Bob Learzaf, cuffed him, put him in leg irons and hauled him to jail because he opposed an order from the U.S. Forest Service to burn a cabin that had been owned by his family since 1923. A judge later ruled that Learzaf, who had hired an attorney to fight the Forest Service order, had been wrongfully arrested.

* In 1993, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Agents, with a CNN camera crew in tow, raided the home of Paul and Emma Berger, an elderly Montana couple, after informants claimed that the couple was using pesticide to kill bald eagles. Berger was coerced to allow the lead agent to enter and search his home ­ not knowing that the search warrant did not include the house or that the agent was wearing a hidden CNN microphone. Cleared by a jury of harming eagles, the Bergers sued the federal government for violating their right against unreasonable searches. After six years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the couple.

One reason for these increasing instances of heavy-handed law enforcement is the proliferation of agencies with law enforcement authority. These include the FBI, the Treasury Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Postal Police, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service.

"With so many federal law enforcement entities pursuing their own agendas, it is vital that these agencies be held accountable or the ranks of regulatory victims will grow," says John Carlisle, author of the directory. "Although many falsely-accused people are eventually cleared, they often suffer such grievous economic and psychological harm that their lives are permanently shattered."

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-profit research foundation dedicated to providing free market solutions to public policy problems. To arrange interviews with victims or the author or to order copies of the directory, contact John Carlisle at 202-507-6398 or [email protected] The directory can be accessed on the Internet at http://www.nationalcenter.org/VictimDirectory00.html.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.