FROM BEING DISPLACED
BY OUR OWN
UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT
United States v. Antonelli Children
January 11th, 1999
To Whom it May Concern:
My name is Giovanni LoPresti and I am very proud to be a citizen of this country. I am a law abiding citizen with a grave concern for the safety and well being of innocent children. I was a former judicial volunteer for New Jersey Child Placement Review Board, for the displacement of children. I have family and many friends associated with law enforcement. I was a firm believer in our judicial process until I became actively involved in trying to protect 10 innocent children from being booted out in the street by our own government.
The story I am about to tell you has captured my heart and concern. I will not by any means attempt to distort any facts. I will allow you as a citizen to decide for yourself, whether booting 10 innocent children out in the street is justified. Quite frankly, I am outraged that our own government can displace innocent children without the slightest shame.
The Children's Story
On or about June 1995 a work associate approached me and it was evident that she was very upset. She informed me that her aunt and uncle pleaded guilty to various drug charges. As a result of the guilty pleas, they were required to forfeit the only home they own. The work associate informed me that 10 kids live in this house and that they have no place to go. At this time, seven children were under the age of 18 and three were over the age of 18. Shortly thereafter, the United States Marshals along members of the State Police showed up at the home notifying the mother and the children to vacate the house within 30 days. She informed me that this display of force had traumatized the youngest siblings. Such a display of force was totally unnecessary. Especially, with the complete knowledge that children resided in the home in question.
Not knowing anything about these so called forfeiture laws, I immediately became involved to see what I could do to try to protect these children from being displaced. I met the entire family and informed the mother that she should contact legal aid. The mother tried to obtain legal assistance, but was declined legal representation because she was a convicted felon. I was shocked to hear that legal assistance was declined, especially since it involved innocent children.
Knowing that time was of the essence, I was determined to help these children from being displaced by our own government. I met with Mia Antonelli one of the oldest children and we worked on preparing a motion on behalf of the siblings for the return of the confiscated property. The motion filed on behalf of the children provided the following:
- The children are the biological children of the defendants.
- The home belongs to the children.
- The children had nothing to do with what transpired.
- The children should not be punished or displaced as a result of their parents actions.
- The children have rights.
- The government has an obligation to protect these children.
Upon receipt of the children's motion, the trial Judge immediately issued a stay on the forfeiture. In my heart, I believe the Judge did all he could do to protect these children. He was bound to render a decision based upon the current existing abused forfeiture laws. The Judge took the children's motion under advisement. Eighteen months later, the Judge ruled on the children's motion. He ruled that the children lack standing because they are not the owners of the confiscated home. Please keep in mind, there exists no laws on the books that protect children from being displaced as a result of a forfeiture action. In my point of view, it's a national disgrace and detrimental to the safety and well being of innocent children affected by these forfeiture proceedings.
At this point in time, I reviewed the Court's ruling with Mia Antonelli. We prepared another motion for reconsideration on the grounds that title of the property would vest to the children under the statute of descent. As I anticipated, our government vigorously fought the children's motion without the slightest shame.
Again, in my personal view, I believe this case captured the heart of the presiding Judge in this matter. The Judge again took the children's motion under advisement. Eighteen months later, the Judge ruled on the children's motion. The Judge ruled the children lack standing because they are not legal owners of the home and the statute of descent does not apply to children.
While the motion was pending, the mother was informed by her probation officer and the United States Marshal that the Assistant United States Attorney was willing to give the children a percentage of the sale of the confiscated property. This at least gave me some hope that our government was doing something for the children. Subsequently thereafter, the Assistant United States Attorney was removed from this case. I believe the children's case also captured the heart of the former Assistant United States Attorney involved in this case. He had previously informed Mia Antonelli, that he wasn't happy displacing the children.
It is now the first week of January, 1999 and once again the mother and children were informed by the United States Marshals to vacate the home by January 15th, 1999. At this point, there are only four children residing at the home with the mother. Three children under eighteen years of age. The other 18 years of age. The other children are now adults residing with other family members or living independently.
I had the opportunity to speak to these children on many occasions, and they all informed me that living at home was a living nightmare. Month after month the Marshals coming to check up on them. No wonder why they didn't stay.
On January 9th, 1999 the United States Marshals informed the family that the incarcerated father, filed an emergent motion before the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, for a temporary injunction on the forfeiture, pending the outcome of the father's appeal. Once again, the children are temporally safe from being displaced.
I feel I did all I can do to protect these children. I am proud as a father myself, that I was able to keep this family intact for the past three years. However, I am deeply upset that I can't do more to protect these children. Three years of legal research and what I have discovered has alarmed me. It's just to easy for our government to take your property. There exists no rights for innocent children effected by these proceed- ings.
I have spent hours searching for an attorney who would take the children's case free of charge. Several people advised me not to get involved because it may damage my good name, I responded that the welfare of innocent children has priority. I recently shared my concern for these children with the Roman Catholic Church. They promised me that they would attempt to get an attorney involved in this case. In reality, I feel helpless as to were to go next.
As a former judicial volunteer, I specifically remember a poem that has inspired me. This poem was dedicated by Honorable Martin A. Herman, Judge of the Superior Court, to the members of the child placement review board.
"Give me the will to find a home
For every child now sad, alone.
Give me the tools to wipe, erase
Each frown, each tear from every face.
Give me wisdom, spike it with sight
To make that choice, but make it right.
Give me patience, prudence and time
Help me respond, help me be kind!
Show me a way to mend a heart,
To put together those apart.
Show me a way to be of use,
To curb the hurt, neglect, abuse.
Show me a sign, a point to plot
Towards folks for kids who love a lot.
Please show me, God, just some who care.
With hope in hand we'll soon be there!
Give me the strength to stop that wheel
To place all kids where they may feel
All the good things of life to come,
Warming rainbows, bugles and drums.
Yes, I have courage, I can cope
With troubled teens, for I have hope
That what I do will save the day
For one more child who's come my way!"
Shouldn't we to as concerned citizens take the words of this message to heart and apply it to save these innocent children from being displaced by our own government.
United States vs. Antonelli
The reason the government is confiscating the property and for displacing these innocent children are as follows:
1. The mother of the children utilized her home to discuss an eleven pound marijuana transaction with an individual who was recently arrested for drugs. The transaction did take place at another location.
- In my opinion, a discussion of an eleven pound marijuana transaction does not justify confiscating a home appraised at one hundred and thirty thousand dollars.
The second scenario the government claims justifies forfeiting the property is that
parent's consented to forfeit to the United States the sum of 4 million dollars.
5. This is not disputed, however the trial court was required to make a determination that the parent's have the ability to pay such a fine. That determination has never been made.
I feel this action constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and violates the excessive fine clause of the United States Constitution. Let me make it clear, I agree, the parent's shouldn't be in this type of business. The mother has already received six months house arrest and the father is currently serving a fifteen year prison sentence. One good thing that did come about this situation is that the parent's are drug free.
Based upon the circumstances presented, I believe, it does not give our government the right to steal the family's home. I am pleading with you to assist me in my endeavor to protect these children from being displaced. I am asking that you please voice your opinion to the United States Attorney General. You may contact the Attorney General at:
Thanks for listening and I greatly appreciate your involvement in this matter.
Advocate for the Antonelli Children