Civil Asset Forfeiture

Victim of Police Forfeiture Who Told Story to Media Was Arrested Immediately After


Mackinac Center / Youtube

Last week, I wrote about Wally Kowalski, a resident of southwest Michigan whose bank accounts were frozen, and property seized, during a police raid three months ago. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy publicized his case: Kowalski is licensed to grow medical marijuana, and state cops had spotted his growing area from a helicopter. They destroyed his plants and confiscated his expensive tools (anything they would be able to sell at police auction, he claims), but left without charging him with a crime—leaving him unable to clear his name before a judge or jury.

I headlined the story, "Cops Seize Man's Property, Freeze Bank Accounts—And He Wishes They Would Charge Him with a Crime."

Shortly thereafter, police returned to Kowalski's home in the dead of night, woke him up, and arrested him. The Mackinac Center has more information:

He was handcuffed and brought to the Van Buren County Jail where he spent the night in a cold cell without a pillow or blanket. He was arraigned in the morning and released after posting $1,000 on a $10,000 bond.

The police charged Kowalski with delivery and manufacture of 5 to 45 kilograms of marijuana, between 20 and 200 plants, a 7-year felony and/or carrying up to a $500,000 fine. He was also charged with distribution without remuneration, a misdemeanor.

Kowalski carries a medical marijuana card for himself and says he is the caregiver for four other valid cardholders. When police searched his house on Sept. 2, they could not find two caregiver cards. Kowalski says he lost the cards but did get replacements days later and turned them over to the police.

Under Michigan's medical marijuana law, he is legally allowed to grow 12 plants per person. According to the seizure order, police found 55 plants.

The Mackinac Center's Anne Schieber told me there is no evidence that either her reporting or mine triggered the arrest. According to Schieber, Kowalski asked the police if his arrest was related to the media attention. They denied that it was.

Still, it was an unexpected and bizarre arrest. Kowalski had been told previously by the authorities that they would let him know if they planned to file charges so that he could turn himself in voluntarily. His attorney described the overnight arrest as "unusual," according to the Mackinac Center.

Watch Schieber's initial interview with Kowalski below.

NEXT: A. Barton Hinkle on Why Both Liberals and Conservatives Are Wrong on Crime

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  1. Yeah, there’s no way in hell that this wasn’t retaliatory.

    1. Well who the hell does this asshole think he is, telling his story to the media. He’ll learn.

  2. And there goes the Challenger, being chased by the blue, blue meanies on wheels. The vicious traffic squad cars are after our lone driver, the last American hero, the electric centaur, the, the demi-god, the super driver of the golden west! Two nasty Nazi cars are close behind the beautiful lone driver. The police numbers are gettin’ closer, closer, closer to our soul hero, in his soul mobile, yeah baby! They about to strike. They gonna get him. Smash him. Rape… the last beautiful free soul on this planet.

    1. But it is written: If the evil spirit arms the tiger with claws, Brahman provided wings for the dove. Thus spake the Super Guru.

      1. Fucking nice.

        1. I first heard that on a G’n’R album, before I had even heard of Vanishing Point.

    2. Super Soul!

      I love that movie. Haven’t watched it in at least a decade though.

    3. +1

    4. +440 Mopar

  3. Contentious negotiations are all about leverage. Even when you sue someone for breach of contract, it’s really just about getting more leverage in your ongoing negotiation…

    It’s hard to get someone to agree not to talk to the media about your case when they don’t have any leverage. And all the cops usually have to do to get leverage and a plea bargain from somebody is accuse them of a crime.

    1. Just don’t let the judge get wind you’re doing that, or you’ll likely lose the lawsuit. That’s leverage for the other side.

  4. Fuck. Tha. Poe. Lease.

  5. The police on TV would never act like this.

  6. I’m shocked that he made it out of his house alive. I can guarantee that one of those officers feared for his life, dealing with a drug trafficker in the dead of night like that…

  7. I was talking to someone about asset forfeiture last weekend. He didn’t believe me when I told him that cops can pretty much just take whatever they want, as long as they think it’s related to some kind of crime. He also didn’t believe me when I said that there isn’t a lot of recourse for citizens whose property has been seized–at least not a lot of recourse if they want it back.

    He’s too precious for this world.

    1. There’s a lot of government-worshippers who like to be willfully ignorant about these kinds of abuses. Won’t allow anything into their mind that would contradict their own love of government.

      1. He’s actually not a government-worshipper, though. He describes himself as a libertarian, and–with the exception of thinking most cops are decent–he seems to fit the term pretty well.

        I just think it’s interesting that you can be all for less/smaller government, but a lot of people have a blind eye for one topic or another. In his case, it’s cops. I think I can change him.

        1. Send him enough links from here and he will.

          I always thought there were problems, what with using traffic to fund PDs and the drug war, but other than that, I generally thought cops were doing good. Not anymore.

          1. Show me someone who trusts the police, and I’ll show you someone who has never interacted with the police other than minor traffic violations.

            1. A minor traffic violation is when I learned what the police were. I was probably 4 or 5 when my mom got pulled over, she cursed a few times and looked very afraid. After the ordeal was over, I asked her if cops are ‘bad guys’ and she was startled and appalled that I gleaned that from her palpable fear. She began, almost frantically, to reassure me that cops were good people and that I should trust them.

              I didn’t believe her because I thought her fearful response was more honest than her statement.

          2. There are no good cops. This can be proven by the fact that there are bad cops.

          3. Yep, just wear him down.

            He’s got nuts, and they can be punched.

        2. “I think I can change him”

          Is this supposed to be a joke about your gender?

      2. I don’t think everyone like this is necessarily a government worshipper.

        To be fair, this is a case where the truth is un-fucking-believable. And I could easily enough imagine someone thinking “Geez….if stuff like that was going on, we’d be hearing about it all the time…”.

        1. “Geez….if stuff like that was going on, we’d be hearing about it all the time…”.

          I think that’s mostly it. We were flashing our libertarian credentials, and I mentioned frequenting this site despite the abundance of nutpunches–specifically cop abuse type stories. He just assumes that a few bad apples spoil the bunch since you don’t really hear about these types of things unless you either 1) go looking for them, or 2) frequent a site that specifically highlights them.

          1. I’m assuming he’s never had a negative experience with the cops. That kind of thing changes peoples’ minds right quick. Having some goon decide that he/she doesn’t like you for no reason and can get away with arresting or even killing you with no consequences wakes people up to the dangers of unaccountable power.

            1. I think you and sarcasmic are correct–I doubt he’s ever had anything stronger than the odd traffic violation.

              By the way, if you ever get tired of playing your cutting-edge games, you should add me on Steam (assuming you have it, you Borderlands freak) and we can play an older game that won’t tank my PC. 😛

              1. Sure, I’ll definitely add you (I do have Steam), but my oldest game is…Borderlands 1. I got Steam and it at the same time back in 2009. Ancient times.

                  1. 2009?!

                    Yeah, I know. I took an almost total video game hiatus from 2004-2008 for various reasons. 2009, Steam, and Borderlands 1 was me getting pulled back in, to my relieved enjoyment.

                    1. I’ll let it slide this time, but mostly because I didn’t get “into” PC games until about 2004 myself.

                    2. BL 2 is great….the latest one kinda sucks. But there is always Destiny…got any shards, please man just a few more shards and I can upgrade my Plan C but then they will reset all the upgrades…and I have to do it all over again. Please. I. Need. Help.

                      Destiny is crack.

                    3. Sounds dangerous, but at least it’s probably cheaper than crack.

                      I used to play WoW (not vanilla), and every now and then I still get bugs under my skin thinking about reactivating.

                      Been thinking about picking up Dragon Age Inquisition even though I haven’t played any other DA games. I’ve just heard a lot of good things about that particular one, and I think it will satisfy the RPG-itch I get.

              2. By the way, if you ever get tired of playing your cutting-edge games, you should add me on Steam (assuming you have it, you Borderlands freak) and we can play an older game that won’t tank my PC. 😛

                Old game that won’t break your PC 🙂

                1. I’m almost afraid to even mention I’m currently playing… Bioshock. $7 Playstation download.

              3. All it takes is an odd traffic violation with the wrong cop for someone to realise just how bad the “justice system” can screw with you for years on end.

                Lucky him (so far)

            2. The first time that happened to me I figured it was a bad apple. The second time I started to wonder. By the third time my faith in the police was seriously shaken. The fourth time it was almost gone. After the fifth time I decided that bad cops are the rule, not the exception. Now I make a point to avoid them, even if I am inconvenienced for it. And I see no point in reporting crime unless I need paperwork for insurance purposes.

            3. Most people don’t have significant experience with the police. And most that do aren’t inclined to think abuse is systematic.

              They’ll assume individual cops are assholes.

              What they aren’t inclined to think is that the police have legal authority to take your stuff at will under the aegis of the law. Something like that sounds so fundamentally at odds with what we as a country are supposed to be about that the natural inclination is to assume that it isn’t true. Or at least that its an exaggeration.

              1. This is why Ferguson upsets white people so much. Someone in the family tried to bring up Ferguson during a lull in the Thanksgiving dinner conversation. I immediately interrupted and said “Everyone raise your hand here if you’ve ever been arrested.” I of course was the only one who raised his hand. I then said “So none of you have had ANY experience with police that even remotely resembles the experience a typical Ferguson resident has.” Which killed that topic immediately, thank God.

          2. We shouldn’t let a few hundred thousand bad apples spoil the bunch.

      3. Speaking of Guv Worship, do it RIGHT, Guv Almighty Dammit!!!
        Scienfoology Song? GAWD = Government Almighty’s Wrath Delivers

        Government loves me, This I know,
        For the Government tells me so,
        Little ones to GAWD belong,
        We are weak, but GAWD is strong!
        Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
        Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
        Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
        My Nannies tell me so!

        GAWD does love me, yes indeed,
        Keeps me safe, and gives me feed,
        Shelters me from bad drugs and weed,
        And gives me all that I might need!
        Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
        Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
        Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
        My Nannies tell me so!

        DEA, CIA, KGB,
        Our protectors, they will be,
        FBI, TSA, and FDA,
        With us, astride us, in every way!
        Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
        Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
        Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
        My Nannies tell me so!

    2. He’s too precious for this world.

      Soooo…. does that mean he’s good in the sack?

      1. A gentleman never asks; a lady never tells.

        1. You won’t find many gentlemen around here.

          1. And I didn’t think Riven was a lady. :-p

            1. I guess it’s relative. 😛

        2. So is he good in the sack? 😉

        3. So, Riven, I thought I heard something about you living in MT. What part, if you don’t mind me asking? I live near Great Falls.

          1. It’s true. I was born and raised in small town, rural Montana, but now I live in the big city–Billings.

            1. Also, I used to go to Great Falls all the time when I was going to college in la Havre. Is still windy as hell?

              1. Worse than ever.

                But the lack of people makes up for it. 😉

                If you’re ever up this way, let me know, the wife and I will buy you a drink.

                1. I will do that! I have a friend or two who live in the area, so next time I’m headed that way, I’ll stalk you on here and let you know.

                  I see we both have similar reasons for enjoying living in Montana. xD I love the winters here–because it keeps the population low.

                  1. I keep hearing Montana is wonderful. I must check it out someday.

                    It’s awesome you used your steam profile as your website. 🙂

                    1. Thank you! I thought it might give some hope to the commentariat.

                      Plus, it was better than linking to the only other online profile I have–which is fitness related.

    3. It doesn’t even have to be related to a crime.

    4. In his defense: I’ve been reading about it online for years — and I still don’t believe it myself.

    5. My 22 year-old daughter was telling me about it like it was something new. She heard about it from John Oliver, of course.
      Guess she wasn’t reading my Facebook posts all these years.

  8. Well, he did wish to be charged with a crime.

    Yes, I like my humor black.

    1. just like your women ?

      1. Rascist!

        Oh wait — that was so 10 years ago. Let me try again…



      2. Black, bitter, and preferably fair trade.

        1. I like my coffee like i like my women…

          Ground up and in the freezer

  9. Was he arrested on state or federal charges? It makes a huge difference.

    It sounds like he was arrested on state charges (police, not DEA agents, county lockup, not federal). But I though he was good under state law on medpot suppliers?

    1. 7 plants over the state legal limit.

      assuming the police know how to count pants.

      1. And plants.

        (OT, I hate when people describe a type of pants as a type of pant.)

        1. I blame J. Peterman.

      2. I thought he cared for 4 plus him = 5 so he could have 60 plants, not 48. Maybe it was misreported, or I don’t get it.

      3. 5 under actually. The four others plus himself. So he’s allowed 60.

        1. I’m just saying the police can count whatever way they want. Is it 12 plants per caregiver, or 12 plants per person under a grower’s care? Is he considered under his own care or not?

          Seize assets first and ask questions later is the m.o.

          1. That such a question needs to be seriously asked is all the proof we need that we’re living in Kafaesque times.

  10. Hmmm. Let me see. Math in public. 12 times five is what? Let’s get out the old calculator here…

    Oh yes, 60. Now I know you are cops, but is 55 less than or greater than 60. I can’t remember.


    1. Police were probably doing 12 x 4.

      It’s like saying “next Wednesday” on a Monday.

  11. So cops are pissed that they are portrayed as thieving goons in public. Excellent opportunity to double down on the goonery. I am sure now everyone will go back to seeing them as heroes in blue.

    Ferguson syndrome.

    1. If you can’t keep the thieving quiet, I guess the next logical step is intimidation.

      1. Thieving doesn’t need to be quiet if it’s been legitimized.

  12. Well he’s a patient. He claims he grows for four other persons. That allows for a total of 60 plants. The article sites that he had up to 55. Seems well within his legal rights according to the law.

    They’re (justice department) just being dicks as far as I’m concerned at this point.

  13. Fucking churlish. Twenty years from now, I hope people remember what these pigs did, and hold it against them for the rest of their miserable lives.


    1. for the rest of their miserable lives………….as they rake in 6 figure pensions.

  14. OBEY….

  15. Bullshit it wasn’t related to the media attention.

  16. Still not seeing how he did anything wrong. They found 55 plants. He can have 12 per person. He has a medical marijuana card and is caregiver to 4 other people. 4+1=5, 5×12=60. He had 55. He could have had 5 more plants and been within his legal rights.

    1. I don’t understand why you seem to be thinking that whether he did anything wrong and the fact that the cops are messing with him have anything to do with one another.

  17. Start making cash right now… Get more time with your family by doing jobs that only require for you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. Start bringing up to $8012 a month. I’ve started this job and I’ve never been happier and now I am sharing it with you, so you can try it too. You can check it out here….
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    1. With all this money you’re raking in, why is your mom still doing sailors for two bucks a pop?


  18. I was kind of worried about the entire thing. I’ve never worked from home, But Yeah, I did just join and all is good. so I will post back how it goes!

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  19. Suggested Constitutional Amendment: “Congress, the States, Counties, and Municipalities shall make no law regarding the possession, use, growing, or sale of marijuana.”

  20. be careful what you wish for?

  21. The Michigan State Police are one of the most corrupt set of “public servants” in the Country. The state government has made them and their union exempt from everything and they answer to NO ONE. Here’s a great example of them getting one of their own his job back after he pleads guilty to attempting to plant child pornography on someone’s computer:


  22. My buddy’s ex-wife makes $84 /hr on the computer . She has been fired from work for 7 months but last month her payment was $13167 just working on the computer for a few hours.
    site here ????

  23. That’ll teach him talking about master like that.

  24. I don’t live too far from Mr. Kowalski. In fact, I moved from the Detroit area in an attempt to raise my developmentally disabled grandson in a better area. He has a low I.Q. and I thought we were doing the right thing by bringing him out to the west side. Wrong! He now has two felonies and three misdemeanors. Even though he cannot understand what little he is able to read for the most part, he is still held at the same level of competency. What I’ve learned from all of it – it’s all about money. The fines, probation and anything else they can come up with. I’m done with Michigan. I’ve lived here all of my life and I’ve had enough. There’s no justice, no sanity and no rationale. Not from the cops, the courts or even the attorneys (at least not that I’ve found). I’ve never been one to stick my head in the sand or to allow injustice to stroll on by, but what the hell is left when the defense attorneys are just as guilty as rest? My fight is just about exhausted. F*** Michigan and I’m pretty sure I could if the price is right. Why not? Pepsi did for a few thousand.

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