Fred Snow sold cars and cocaine. William Burl Hatchett beat his prostitutes and forced them to have his name tattooed on their bodies. David Treft cooked an estimated half-million dollars worth of methamphetamine. All three were put on probation instead of being sent to prison after the North Central Texas Narcotics Task Force struck deals for lighter punishments in exchange for cash, cars, motorcycles, jewelry and other property that the task force needed to fund its operations, reports the Dallas Morning News.
Denver McCarty, a former task force prosecutor, said he offered the deals to a half-dozen defendants in the last two years. “If we don’t have enough money by the end of the grant year, we’re all out of a job,” he said. “You kind of knew what kind of forfeiture money you needed to have, or everybody’s going home.”
Task forces like this one include police officers and prosecutors from various member agencies. Most of their salaries are paid using federal grants that require a portion of the task force’s budget to be brought in by the task force. That’s done in part by seizing the assets of defendants, having courts validate the forfeiture of the property and then selling it.
To speed the often lengthy judicial process, prosecutors have persuaded some defendants to hand over their assets in exchange for a lighter sentence. In Denton County, task force forfeitures have averaged about $150,000 per year for the last six years.
Denton County District Attorney Bruce Isaacks denied that forfeitures have been a part of plea negotiations in his office. He said he would have fired McCarty for offering such deals.