Civil Asset Forfeiture

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

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Kowalski
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.