This story seems like some fiction writer is trying to paint a dark picture how
things will be in the United States .. at some future time, but it isn't,
it's the now reality, ... even the city manager showed no regard for what
happened.The poor guy's wife dies, and very shortly after this
police come busting in insisting to get the dead wife's percription drugs.
How did they know she just died? Since when do police bully themselves into
people's homes just after a family member dies to collect the percription
drugs the person was using? Since when don't police need a warrant i.e.
probable cause to believe those drugs would have been sold or used illegally
before they come busting in?People, shouldn't be treated this
If this happened as the story portrays, then people should lose their jobs.No way that anything like this is acceptable.I hope their is a
major punitive damage awarded that makes the city reconsider their ways.
Sadly a sign of the times, inexcusable behavior by police/government.
Thanks Dennis for the information. It seems that local, state and fed police
can do no wrong and are not accountable for bad behavior under the name of pubic
I applaud Mr. Mahaffey for his willingness to hold the police accountable. This
is outrageous behavior by the cops. It's not like people are dying left and
right, and this is the sole means by which prescription drugs get sold
illegally. That they were searching his home while the body is still there in
the home, is absolutely outrageous, and his personal history clearly suggests he
viewed drugs as purely medicinal in nature. They should nail someone to the wall
for this one--it sound like the police in vernal need to learn that one is
presumed innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around. Give us a break and let the guy grieve the passing of his wife.
One of the things I would press for in discovery is whether the drugs taken from
the home were actually disposed of. This warrantless entry seems rife with abuse
and fraud - and the officers who took the drugs must show that each and every
pill taken was accounted for and destroyed. This kind of intrusion
and abuse of privacy seems more and more common.
Where is the common sense Police?Give a man a little authority and
he thinks he can bully people.
The crime rate must be really low in Vernal if they have the time and manpower
to respond to "dangerous" incidents like this one.
If true, sounds like some butts in Vernal need to be kicked...to the curb
In my experience in California, when hospice is involved in a death and when
there are strong medications like morphine, they make a short term appointment
to secure and destroy the drugs. We had to crush all the pills and poured all
the liquid morphine (street value $5000) into a diaper to render them useless.
This was done with a hospice person, me and a neighbor to witness. But it
wasn't done while we were in the process of removing my husband's
remains. There is purpose for doing this, but after midnight when the
death was not suspicious nor were the individuals involved is pretty awful.
Beware of news articles (like this one) that only tell one side of the story.
There's more going on here than meets the eye.
A few years ago, a brother committed suicide by hanging himself inside my
parents' tool shed. When my parents discovered him, they called 911. For
the next two hours 9 police officers grilled my parents with the same questions,
trying to trip them up, and they were told that they were under investigation
for murder. For heaven's sake, they had just discovered their son dead.
He weighed over 200 pounds and they thought it was logical that my 76 year old
grandfather could carry him up a ladder and hang him. There was no probable
cause. There was no evidence. There was no history. This was just standard
procedure. They wouldn't even allow them near his body to spend any time
grieving or caressing his arm or face. They couldn't tell him they loved
him. That would have to wait. These officers could be put to better use at the
airport frisking old ladies and babies and cripples. And there is not more to
it is drug war which is against people and always has been. it is a issue of
control by the most consevative people in our country to make you think and act
like they do. the same people want more guns on the street. they peotected no
one when they did this. someones house could have been robbed when they where
there. a murder could have happened.we wont let sex education be in school
but children are molested all the time. why dont they bust down doors for child
porn, or gang rape. or violence on the streets. mexico supplies us with drugs
our gun companies sell then automatic rifles. paranoina rules our counntry.
The story is pretty one sided. I know they said the city wouldn't make a
comment because they hadn't see the complaint yet, but that's hardly
covering both sides. Since the event happened in May, what harm would have been
done had they waited and got more information on both sides. It clearly sounds
like a violation of the elderly gentleman's rights, but again, we've
only heard his side.
You just have to know our little police department here. They take a lot of
time to do vehicle code enforcement (too loud, tires too wide, too-dark tinted
windows, etc...) because not much else goes on in the city. When something
major happens, the whole department shows up.I've known Ben
since he and his wife moved here. He is a soft-spoken, avid outdoors man that I
would venture is telling the truth. He has no reason to do otherwise. Yes, the story sounds one-sided, but it sounds plausible to me.
This is pretty upsetting. I am against illegal drug use. But those responsible
for controlling illegal drugs should never engage in behavior that is abusive to
private citizens--just because they have a little authority in a smaller town
where there is no one to check their behavior. We are getting one side of the
story but if the account is accurate, the authorities in Vernal need a serious
reality check about respecting people's rights.
If Feinstein's Assault Weapon Ban legislation is passed we will be seeing
this exact same thing playing out everyday when a gun owner passes away and the
ATF comes to confiscate his/her "grandfathered" firearms. Welcome to the
Ya know -- a hospice service/ dying at home is in our plans. Now I
know there will have to be a very detailed in-depth discussion with the hospice
regarding respecting final moments and handling of any drug issues. (I am
assuming that the hospice *is* the originator of contact to the outsiders) This incident as described, is totally unacceptable.
This sounds very believable to me. We live in Vernal, and are aware of the
arrogance of some of the officers here. Not all...some are very public service
oriented. But there are many who are very full of their own self-importance.
I'm sure glad I live in Canada... The news storys every day like this one ,
and even the reality TV shows such as "Cops" and "48 hours" seem
to point out that the U.S. is more and more becoming an authoritarian police
state, with total disregard for the general public. Just last night I saw an
episode of "cops" where an individual during a routine traffic stop, who
was complying to everything they told him told him to do, was tazed for asking
twice why he was stopped. They accused him of being "argumentive"..
total crap!! Now we have this nonsense where these Veral cops feared an 80 year
old man might become a drug trafficer.
vernal + govt officials = this
The police in this town obviously have nothing better to do. They have to take
anything that will justify their jobs. Someone can even die in peace. I am sure
there is a good drug problem in Vernal Utah like there is in most small towns in
Utah. It's just plain ridiculous if they get away with violating
people's rights. I applaud this gentleman standing up to this violation. It
would be nice to see if there are any overriding facts that would give the
police reasonable cause to behave in such an unprofessional and it illegal
When hospice helped one of my family members, they came to the house 10 minutes
later. We took all her medications and they put them into a bag with chemicals
called a cake mix. It destroys the drugs and makes them safe to dispose. Shame on Vernal.
Seems as though this gentleman was possibly known by many in town, and some of
the folks knew his wife was ill. I had colon cancer, and it's not a
cakewalk, so no doubt she had a bad time of it, and my heart goes out to her
husband at this time. She must have been quite a lady. These cops no doubt also
knew she took meds...did they want them for themselves? They should be so
ashamed of themselves, they should hang their heads and be assigned the dirtiest
jobs in the place! And if they want to really make amends, do some volunteer
The city should be mighty glad I am not going to be on that jury. It has been
awhile since we have heard about multi-million dollar settlements, but this one
should end up in that story list in the future.I would award many, many
millions to this man for this.Heads should roll in every organization even
remotely involved with this incident. City Council should proactively take
action with in every city organization to clear up ANY possible concept that
would suggest this kind of action is acceptable behavior. They should hire a
training firm to prepare extensive training for all personnel to ensure this
kind of thing never happens again.
Heads need to roll on this one.
On behalf of ALL rational tax-paying citizens of the State of Utah I would like
to apologize and offer my condolances to Mr. Mahaffey. He's
obviously been victimized by BOTH the initial (and probably illegal)search but
also by the city goofballs he pays taxes to support.On a
lawsuit/judgment of this size, the city residents may very well wind up
suffering also after THEY (through their taxes)get through paying off the
lawsuit.NO ONE is going to make up something like this.Too bad the judgment doesn't come DIRECTLY out of the cops' pockets!
Wait. So, after I DON'T use all the pills my doc puts me on for pain, the
cops can just come in and take them? So, if they see me going back to work not
using crutches, they'll assume I'm healed and want to come get my
meds? I have some hardcore pain meds and I'm well aware of the street
value. However, I PAID for these meds and may want them around for an emergency.
Sure, you could say that maybe I want them to get high or whatever, but so what?
Even that is still MY business! I have no issues with drugs, I'm just
saying that it should be my decision as an adult to keep what I've paid
This is outrages, I hope he takes the city to the cleaners.This is not what this
country is about. This shows just how out of control police can be.
This is really a sad story. But if it happened as written, and that is pretty
much the facts, then Vernal City police are nothing short of bullies. Here we
are trying to teach our youth the seriousness of bullying and yet the police of
Vernal (not all of you) think its ok?Then....I can see another side of it
too. Yes, I actually said that. My 22 yr. old son died in SLC, Utah from a
accidental drug overdose, morphine. He bought it cheap off the street. But,
there has to be a better way of drug control than what happened here? And
by the way, the police found out, most likely because Hospice notified them that
the prescription drugs were in the house and the patietn died. Breach of
confidentility here folks.My mom died in the hospital, and when she did,
her prescription drugs, Morphine and Xanac, was still tucked away in the
nightstand. Thank goodness the police and hospice here in our local town
didn't do that. I am sorry Mr. Mchaffey had to endure that trauma on top of
losing his beloved wife.
Truly a stunning intrusion by officials who take themselves too seriously. The
medications were lawfully in this couple's home. No laws were broken and
the police and government officials should be sued to protect the innocent. How
insane and twisted is the reasoning of these city officials? Hope this
situation draws plenty of attention and this insanity is properly resolved.
This is shoddy journalism at it's best... and the comments aren't much
better. Only two people questioned the stories fact finding so far. If the story
were true then perhaps there would be something to get steamed about. Not only
is the article extremely one sided, several pieces of this guys story are not
true. A little digging would have made that apparent. Sadly, this is why I
don't read the Deseret News... a friend of mine happened to point me here.
Seeing the comments I felt it worth setting you all (including the author)
taylor28Then why don't you set us straight. What is not true and
what are the facts that are incorrectly stated?
The attitudes of the City Managers and police officials are far more disturbing
than the actions of this individual officer. The city manager's reading of
the situation as one with an overly sensitive man would be funny if it were
fiction. Exactly how does the city manager expect an 80 year old man at the side
of his deceased wife in the middle of the night to react. Trust me, if he
were into selling drugs he would have seen you coming and hidden them. Druggies
are like that. Somehow I suspect that his thoughts were scattered and his heart
was so heavy that he was having a rough time figuring out what to do next. Maybe
instead of a midnight raid on this 'suspected ne'er do well' a
visit from a social worker within a day or two to check on this man may have
been more appropriate. When my grandmother died my grandfather was lost, and he
stayed that way until his own death eight years later. 'Overly
sensitive' is the most pathetic explanation possible for this man's
objections to the treatment he received. Nor is it a good way to make the whole
Vernal police clearly violated this mans rights! And from the sound of it, this
is common practice for them. Absolutely disgusting! What is our country coming
to when the Gestapo can just barge in and take what they want in the name of
protecting the public?We must stand against this kind of disregard for our
laws and rights!
"Following the incident, Mahaffey asked Vernal city officials and police
administrators why officers would search his home without a warrant. He said he
was told the Utah Controlled Substances Act provides authority for the
search.According to the lawsuit, Mahaffey also said city manager Ken
Bassett dismissed his concerns, saying he was "overly sensitive" and
that police were just trying to protect the public from illegal use of
prescription drugs."The "War on Drugs" is just an excuse
for power crazed zealots like Bassett to inflate their puny egos by committing
atrocities against helpless people. At a minimum, Bassett should be fired,
tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail.
If the police think that some Utah law gives them the right to enter a residence
without a search warrant, they've got another thing coming! The U.S
Constitution says otherwise! And no state, no matter what, can make a law that
invalidates a Constitutional right. There was a big fight over the issue back
in the 1860s, and the result was that the U.S. Constitution trumps all! I guess
these puny minded cops never heard of the Civil War.
Cops have no right to come in and take these drugs without a warrant. How does
this happen? Where are the rights of the husband. If cops can come take
dangerous things from your house, this is a terrible precedent.
The key to this story is that Hospice was involved. Hospice makes if very clear
that they will enter the home after a hospice patient has died to remove
narcotic medications and equipment. The purpose of removing the narcotics is
that the prescribed patient is deceased and when a family is mourning, much
damage could happen very quickly if family members were to use the drugs. My
step-mother was on a methadone pump and had two children, 16 and 11, who were,
rightfully so, devastated. Imagine if they had tried to take those medications.
The intrusion into your home feels hasty and disrespectful at the time but the
purpose of removing those medications is valid.
Another sad day in America! Go get em Mr. Mahaffey!!!!!! They need to be held
Even if the Controlled Substances Act gave authorities permission to search
homes without a warrant, it's still unconstitutional. The 4th Amendment
expressly recognized the "right of the people to be secure in their persons,
houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, SHALL
NOT BE VIOLATED." I really feel for Mr. Mahaffey and abhor what
city officials and the police did to him. That is completely unacceptable under
any circumstances. You can never get a moment like that back no matter how much
you try. Those officers stole something priceless and invaluable.
Utah: Once again leading the nation in ignoring its citizens civil and
@Taylor28, You claim that several parts of the story are not true and you
express your disdain that no one checked the facts then say you are trying to
set the story straight. You don't however produce any evidence of any
parts that aren't true or indicate where that information might be foundYou havn't set anyone straight at all.
Here is how it happens down here in Texas. If a police officer does not have a
warrant and he is not defending the life or property of someone else, he is
committing an unlawful home invasion.And if that happens, Texas
residents have every right under the law to shoot him 10 times in the face.And that is EXACTLY why Texas police ALWAYS get a warrant before
entering a home.
@joseywales, the key is whether you have acquired them legally, by prescription.
You don't have to use them at once, if you possess them legally, then
it's indefinite. But you can't "inherit" them from someone
else, even if it's your deceased spouse.
@chcknhawk - "Even if the Controlled Substances Act gave authorities
permission to search homes without a warrant," - no, it does not. But as a
general principle, the police may enter premises w/o warrant if they have strong
reasons to believe that the evidence is about to be destroyed.Note
that it's about the _evidence_ of a crime, not preventive measure like it
was. So either when they discovered these drugs, they must have arrested the
man; or it was unlawful entry.