The story of Earl Cavin Sr.
added to FEAR website 12/12/2005

Corruption In Hamilton Ohio:

Civil Asset Forfeiture

Some Background About Earl and His Family:

            I will begin this story with introducing myself, Michael Marcum. I am the son in law of Earl Cavin Sr., a  84 year old good upstanding citizen of Hamilton, Ohio, which is the county seat here in Butler County Ohio. This is a story about Law Enforcement, and the Prosecutors office gone corrupt using Civil Asset Forfeitures to fund their projects.

            Earl Cavin Sr. was born and raised and worked his entire life in this city of Hamilton, Ohio. He was like most other families and worked to just keep food on the table and a place to live for his family. He was not wealthy by any means. Earl was and is a good man. He raised 5 children, Earl Jr, ( hereafter referred to as Jr), Sharon Kay, Janice, Patricia, and Denise. Earl and wife Edith raised  their children the best they could like most good parents would, teaching them right from wrong. Before his children became adults, his wife, Edith Cavin suffered a stroke and became bedridden. Now many husbands that love their wives, their family, would I think do the best they could to still hold the family together, but I believe  Earl definitely went beyond any of those expectations. The doctors wanted to put Edith in a nursing home, but Earl refused and brought her home, even though she could not eat, nor speak, and had to be fed with a feeding tube. Earl cared for his wife, feeding her through a tube, and bathing her daily, for 20 yrs. I think that alone sets the tone for what kind of a man we are talking about here.  The children each left the home one by one until they were all gone and Earl continued after retiring, caring for his wife at home and leading a very simple life. He is well known in his low income neighborhood by many, and everyone knew Earl as a good man. Edith finally succumbed to strokes and heart failure and passed away in 2001 leaving Earl alone.

            Earl had been raised on a farm and lived a tough life along with his 8 other siblings. His father always taught him to save whatever he could and it was something that Earl never forgot. Earl has one of those sayings that some people keep close to them and I myself had heard many times throughout the years I have known him. It is a quote that I reflect on daily now, the words often ring in my ears, “ It’s not what you make, it’s what you can keep”. Earl held to these words and penny pinched, and that is not the best way I can describe it, but Earl saved, and saved, and saved. Now Earl is like most old timers and living through the tough times he has, he had come to not totally trust banks. Because of this, Earl kept some of his cash savings in his Daughter Sharon’s safe in her house. Earl had purchased a old house and fixed it up and had some rental income coming in along with his modest Social Security checks. He had years ago along with his brother purchased a piece of land in Butler County and held on to it for a number of years, until recently in 2002 he and his brother sold the land for a good profit. Of course some of the money went into the safe, and the rest into his Bank. Shortly thereafter one of his sisters passed away and left Earl about 26,000.00 in her will. Again, some went into the safe at his daughter Sharon’s house, and some into the Bank. So, Earl was accumulating some money as he grew older. He still wasn’t rich, but he had a nice nest egg. As time went by, Earl never changed, he stayed thrifty, saving as he had always done never spending more than was absolutely necessary. He had never in his entire life splurged, the man just didn’t do it. He could have if he had wanted to, in his golden years, without a doubt purchased himself a new vehicle, which he had never owned one in his life, but he chose to just live the life he had always lived, “ It’s not what you make, it’s what you can keep”. When I often asked him, “ Earl, why don’t you buy yourself a new car”, he would always say that famous quote of his and then proceed to tell you how hard it was growing up and providing for his family, and that what he had saved was something he wanted his children to have, just to leave them a little something. He had no idea at that time how he would have to soon fight for what was rightfully his!

The Beginning of Corruption

            Earls son, Earl Jr., had been raised like his other brothers and sisters and was taught right from wrong, however, as many parents know, your children do not always follow the road that you taught them and Jr. was no exception to this. Jr. had a history, a bad history and it embarrassed and hurt Earl knowing how his son had turned out. Earl had told him like a good parent should, if you get yourself in a mess, I won’t come and bail you out, you got into it, you get yourself out of it. I think that’s called tough love. Not the easiest way out, but the best way in my opinion. Jr. had opened a Swap Shop in the city of Hamilton and was doing a thriving business, however, what was being sold was not what met the eye, for Jr. was indeed dealing drugs out of his business location. This is where Earl’s nightmare began.

            The Detectives for the City of Hamilton had set up a sting for Jr. and they indeed did bust him, setting up a drug buy at his business location by using one of Jr’s friends, ( James Whitt ), who was dealing with Jr. out of the Swap Shop. James Whitt had cut a deal with the Sheriff’s office and cooperated with the sting. They arrested Jr. and confiscated his business, cash he had at home and his vehicles. If it would have stopped there, I would not be writing this story, but this is where the Corruption begins.

            How the Detectives knew about Earl’s money in his daughter Sharon’s house, we have yet to determine, but somehow, they knew the money was there. At the same time they were busting Jr’s business, Detectives from the City of Hamilton, and the Butler County Sheriffs department obtained a search warrant for Sharon’s house and found Earl’s life savings in Sharon’s house and confiscated it along with Earl’s check book, Social Security stubs, and some dollar bills that had a “ K “ marking on them that Earl just liked to save -- under the “ Civil Asset Forfeiture Law“.  Sharon called Earl at the time of the bust and told him to get over there and he did, IMMEDIATELY. One of the detectives was standing at Sharon’s door when Earl arrived and when asked by Earl what they were doing, that the money that was there was HIS money, the Detective replied, “ Don’t worry, if it is yours, you will get it back. Just call me in the morning”. Sharon repeatedly told the Detectives, “ this is my father’s money, why are you here, why are you taking his money”. I think back on this day and wonder how Earl kept from having a heart attack. Earl was devastated! Not only about his son Jr. , but now he had lost all he had ever saved for his entire life. The battle had begun for a decent upstanding citizen and the corrupt Law enforcement officers and the local District Attorney.

            Jr. was of course arrested and the Detectives began trying to plea bargain with him. They repeatedly told Jr., admit the money in your sisters house is yours, and we will assure you less time served, if not, then you are looking at a minimum of 10 yrs. Say the money is yours, and you will get off with 2 years, maybe less. But even though Jr. had done so wrong, dealing, he still cared and loved for his father, and Jr. repeatedly told the Detectives, “ THAT IS NOT MY MONEY, IT IS MY DADS LIFE SAVINGS”.

            They took Earls money, $112,334.00, all in cash, along with Earls checking account book and some coins that he had in Sharon’s safe. They also took some other minor things that Sharon owned that were kept in her safe also, coins, etc..

            I myself had been raised by two God fearing Christian parents and I had been taught to always respect the law, and I definitely did. I had never been in trouble my entire 48 yrs. I had a strong belief in the law and those who represented it, until, that very next day. My eyes began to open to what I just didn’t want to believe. Not only did the Sheriff’s department want to keep Earl’s money, but so did the Prosecutor and the Assistant Prosecutor. They had his money, they had his cash, and they weren’t going to let it go. I was naïve, I believed that the Sheriffs Department and the Prosecuting Attorney would see that this was indeed Earl’s money and simply give it back to him. How wrong I was. The legal battle began.

            The Prosecutor Robin Piper, initially charged Jr. under one statue of the law.

Under this statue the State is required to post a notice in the newspaper stating their intentions of the forfeiture under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Law. The law specifically says that once someone is charged under its statue, certain specifications have to be held to. The posting of the newspaper was one, but in addition all party’s involved had to be notified of the State’s intentions. This is where the Prosecutor and the Sheriff’s office screwed up. When the Prosecutor researched the actual stipulations under the statue that Jr. had been charged with, they found that is was going to be extremely difficult to keep the money. So what do they do? They changed the statue in which Jr. was being charged. Guess what? Even though there was a hearing and the Judge allowed the Prosecutor to change the statue, and hold a trial, they themselves had broken the law. You cannot change the statue once you have charged someone. You have to stick to the original stipulations in that statue and they had not even done that by NOT posting in the newspaper their intentions and by not notifying Earl by certified mail. The Prosecutor and the Sheriff’s office proceeded under the new statue and this was entirely illegal, however they and the judge did not believe it was.

            So 2 yrs passed, Earl worried about his money each and every day, waiting for his trial. Finally, the trial date arrived. I along with my wife Denise and her other sisters of course attended the trial. James Whitt, Jr’s friend who had set him up with the Sheriff’s Department testified against Jr. and Earl, and flat out told lie after lie after lie to the jury. I to this day cannot understand why a jury would believe someone like James Whitt. This is a man that has a record a mile long, from drug deals, to theft, you name it, James Whitt did it. But the jury for some reason believed him to some degree, and their decision was that the money be split between the Prosecutor’s office, the State, the Sheriffs office, and Earl.

            Now I believe a lot of people would have given up at this point. Earl had to hire a total of 3 attorneys and this alone ended up costing him  $36,000.00. The trial was over and we walked out of the courtroom, and Earl was livid. In a loud boisterous voice, all he could say was, “THAT’S MY MONEY, THEY CAN”T KEEP MY MONEY”. Earls attorney’s told him they could appeal, however it would cost another $1,000.00 for the transcripts to be prepared and sent to the 12th District Court of Appeals. I thought to myself, Earl, maybe you should just let it be, and take what is left. But not Earl, no, I was given a lesson standing there in that courtroom hallway, his words rang out, “ THEY ARE NOT GOING TO KEEP MY MONEY”. He told his attorneys to do it, to appeal it, and they did.

            It took a while for the case to get to the Appeals Court, but that day finally arrived, and the Appeals Court found errors in the way the Prosecutor and the Sheriff’s office had tried to keep Earls money, and they reversed the Jury’s decision and ordered that ALL of Earl’s money and property be returned to him. Thank God for the Appeals court. It did restore some of my belief in our judicial system. A few weeks after the Appeals Court decision, Earl was taken by one of his attorney’s to the Sheriff’s office where his cash had been kept in a safe and it was with great pleasure that Earl sat in front of them and made them count out to him each and every dollar that they had stolen from him. Earl still lost all of the attorney fee’s he had to pay, and other fee’s imposed by the court system, but he won what I believe was much more than that. It was not only the money, but it was the principal of it all, the fact that a honest citizen stood up for what was rightfully his, something he had worked for his entire life, a 84 year old man fought back and won.

            I don’t know if it taught the Prosecutor or the Sheriff a lesson, but I do believe in justice and justice being served. Following the local paper in months since past, the two detectives who were primarily involved with prosecuting Earls case, both received their own paybacks. One of the detectives, Detective Greg Blankenship, who was the one that stood at Sharon’s steps and told Earl he would get his money back, and who by the way, also lied when he testified on the stand during Earl’s trial, was repeatedly pulled over for DUI on 3 separate instances while off duty. It took the 4th offence before he was discharged from the force, (figure that one out), but Mr. Blankenship did lose his job and years of service. The other Detective (Detective Lambert), who also lied on the stand during Earl’s trial, was relieved of his position after her committed perjury on the stand in another case in Butler County.

            My belief in Law Enforcement and our Legal system had been bruised, but the belief’s that my Christian parents had instilled upon me in knowing and living right from wrong and a just God was prevalent in the end.

            Earl is still living in his home in Hamilton but now suffers from Alzheimer’s. My wife Denise and her Sisters care for him daily around the clock providing for his every need. Well deserved I believe for a good man, an honest man living in Butler County Ohio.


Mike Marcum

Hamilton, Ohio