Oral arguments were heard yesterday by the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit United States v. Abou-KhatwaAn insurance fraud case. Although most of the discussion was focused on Tarek Abou-Khatwa, D.C.’s insurance broker, his appeal against the 2019 conviction, Judge Patricia Millett raised a troubling aspect to the case. When FBI agents executed a search warrant at Abou-Khatwa’s Kalorama Heights home, which is a wealthy D.C. area that’s “favored by diplomats, power brokers,” the agent found no response at the front door. Instead of breaking into the front door, agents approached the back of the house to protect “the aesthetics of an “affluent” neighborhood.
Millett stated that, although this issue wasn’t part of Abou Khanwa’s appeal for asylum, he found it deeply troubling. An FBI agent testified that it was clear that forced entry was required. He said that “due to aesthetics in the area,” they decided to open the rear door to preserve the exterior integrity of the house.
Millett asked Justice Department attorney Finnuala Tessier: “Are we aware that the FBI has a policy not to tear down front doors of rich neighborhoods?” Tessier responded that she wasn’t aware. Millett stated that while she didn’t intend to be rude, this is outrageous FBI behavior. She said that if “there is really a policy that says that we will knock down front doors in poor neighborhoods, but that we will go quietly into the backdoor for rich residents,” it was “deeply troubling” and that “it’s surprising that it hasn’t received more attention.”
Robert Wilkins thanked Millett and expressed his gratitude for raising this issue. Millett said that he was a public lawyer for the past ten years. I can’t count how many times my clients had their front doors smashed in. After executing a search, arrest or other type of investigation on a client’s house, I can’t think of a time when any police officers or agents were concerned about their aesthetics.
If SlateStern, Mark Joseph notedThese comments are from Jabari Jason Tyson Tyson -Phipps on Twitter. Jabari is an attorney who was formerly a Foreign Service Special Agent. replied– “It isn’t protocol. There are 2 justice systems. 1 is for minorities or poor, and the other for wealthy people. This is evident when you’re one of the few African agents. Everybody is different.”
It is not known what the FBI agents searching Abou-Khatwa’s house did. himYou can do your neighbors a favor by refusing to allow you in through the front door. According to the agent, the principal concern of the agent was Abou-Khatwa’s impact on wealthy neighbors.
The reasoning suggests that those who are lucky enough to reside in Kalorama Heights with a median income of $175,000, nearly three quarters of its residents are white and almost all of them are wealthy, can expect to be treated better than residents of Anacostia where the median income is $22,000 and 93% of residents are black. This would apply regardless of whether the suspect is black or white, but such a distinction based on class will have an raciallydisproportionate effect, Tyson Phillips notes.
This being said, it is important to note that the FBI agent’s concerns about “aesthetics” in the neighbourhood means people with more money are likely to pay less than those without the means to do so. This also implies that wealthy people will be less embarrassed by conspicuous front door entry, as it might bother neighbors.
Tessier, the Justice Department attorney, didn’t try to defend FBI’s wealth-based division between criminal suspects. She said, “I will forward that to my management.” “I can understand why the court is worried. “I understand the reasons it upsets the court.”