What they don't want you to know about the criminal justice system in Sussex County, New Jersey...
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The Search & Seizure
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
At approximately 1:20 a.m. on March 14, 1996, Tom's parents were awakened by a loud, forcible banging on their front door. Tom's father went to the door to find Newton Police Officer Neil Casey and Stillwater Police Officer John Schetting. The officer's stated that they were in possession of a valid search warrant and were there to search for and seize any firearms that may be in the house. The officer's showed Tom's father a document that stated as follows:
"LAW ENFORCEMENT SEARCH FOR AND SEIZURE OF WEAPONS - TO ANY LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER HAVING JURISDICTION:[N.2] THIS ORDER SHALL SERVE AS A WARRANT TO SEARCH FOR AND SEIZE WEAPONS AS FOLLOWS:
While the officer's were stating to Tom's father that they were there to execute a search warrant, Tom's mother had gone to awaken him. Tom then stepped out into the living room from his bedroom. Upon seeing Tom come to the front door, the two officer's stepped into the house and told Tom that they were there to search for and seize weapons. They showed Tom the same document that they had showed his father and again stated that they were there to execute a search warrant to search for and seize firearms.
The officer's told Tom that they wanted to begin the search in a spare bedroom where they were told there was a safe. Tom acquiesced to the order of the police. The police officer's ordered Tom to open a locked safe similar to the one displayed at the right. Tom complied with their demands. The officers then began to remove a collection of firearms from the safe. Officer's Casey and Schetting removed several firearms cases from within the safe as well. With each case, the officers either unzipped or opened it to inspect its contents.
The officer's then left Tom alone in the back bedroom to go and search for and seize firearms belonging to Tom's father. On their way to search for more firearms in the house, Officer Casey jokingly stated to Tom "Now don't shoot one of us; that wouldn't make us very happy."
After seizing firearms from Tom's father, the officers then ordered Tom to take them into his bedroom. Once there, officer Casey ordered Tom to lift up the mattress to his bed so that he could look there for firearms. No firearms were found, nor had there ever been any there. Also in Tom's bedroom, the officer's spotted a locked footlocker. The officer's ordered Tom to unlock the footlocker so that they could rummage through it as well.
Having searched through several rooms, bedrooms, locked footlockers, locked safes, and gun racks the officers had been satisfied that they had thoroughly conducted a search of the Cassidy residence and they then departed with a collection of seized firearms. No one was arrested for any crime.
"Consent that is the product of official intimidation or harassment is not consent at all. Citizens do not forfeit their constitutional rights when they are coerced to comply with a request that they would prefer to refuse."
The next day, March 15, 1996, Officer John Schetting and Officer Edward Fransen of the Stillwater Police Department came back to the Cassidy home at approximately 11:15 a.m. The officer's ordered Tom to surrender firearms magazines which had been spotted by Officer's Casey and Schetting on the previous day. Officer's Schetting and Fransen threatened to "tear the house apart again" if Tom did not sign a consent to search form. Indeed, Patrolman John Schetting acknowledges this conduct in his own investigative report.[N.5] In this report, Schetting writes "At 1115hrs. we arrived. Thomas was given a Consent to Search Form, which he read. After he finished reading it, he asked me if we were going to tear the house apart. I told him that if he was honest with us and turned over everything to us, we would not 'Tear the house apart'." Under this duress, Tom unwillingly signed the form. He and his parents had already had their house raided the previous evening in the middle of the night, and did not want to endure such an invasion again.