Asset Forfeiture

Iowa Will Pay Poker Players Robbed by Forfeiture-Hungry State Cops

The state is also disbanding the interdiction team responsible for the traffic stop.

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Iowa State Patrol

Iowa officials have agreed to settle a lawsuit by two California poker players who were robbed of $100,000 after they were pulled over by state police in 2013. The state, which initially maintained that the poker winnings were forfeitable because they were connected to drug trafficking, will pay William Davis and John Newmer­zhycky $60,000 in addition to the $90,000 that was returned before they filed their lawsuit. Meanwhile, the Iowa State Patrol has disbanded the interdiction team that was responsible for the traffic stop, although that decision was not part of the settlement agreement and is supposedly unrelated to the case, which drew national attention to Iowa's forfeiture abuses.

Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Peterzalek recommended the settlement "in light of the complexity of the case and the potential exposure to the state." The lawsuit got a boost from Rodriguez v. United States, the 2015 decision in which the Supreme Court ruled that police may not prolong a traffic stop to facilitate an inspection by a drug-sniffing dog unless they reasonably suspect the car contains contraband. Applying Rodriguez last December, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that state police had violated the Fourth Amendment when they detained a motorist an extra 15 minutes so a dog could sniff his car. The dog's alert led to a search, which resulted in the seizure of $33,000 in cash.

The circumstances in which state troopers took Davis and Newmer­zhycky's money were similar, including a pretextual stop, an extended detention that was supposedly justified by the driver's nervousness, and a dog-authorized search. There was also serious doubt about the legality of the initial stop. Trooper Justin Simmons said he pulled the car over because Newmerzhycky failed to signal as he changed lanes, but dashcam video contradicted that claim.

Lee McGrath, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, called the decision to eliminate the interdiction team "an important step to protect Iowans' property and due process rights from forfeiture abuse" but added that "the state must do more." Iowa, which got a D? in the latest I.J. report on civil forfeiture, allows the government to keep seized property based on a "preponderance of the evidence," meaning it's more likely than not that the asset is connected to illegal activity. Innocent owners bear the burden of proving they did not authorize or know about the alleged crime. Law enforcement agencies get to keep 100 percent of the proceeds from forfeitures, which explains why state troopers were so eagerly looking for excuses to stop cars that might contain cash or other valuables.

[Thanks to Joe Kristan for the tip.]

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  1. Finally some good news. But I wonder how much they will actually take home after attorney fees and such.

    1. Im guessing that $60k goes right into the lawyers pocket. Still worth it though to swat the State on the nose.

      1. “…Still worth it…”

        What a grandiose sentiment you have for the loss of other people’s money. .

      2. So the victims are still out at least $10k.

      3. “Im guessing that $60k goes right into the lawyers pocket”

        Nope. It’s an Institute for Justice case. Those guys are paid by me and I hope you.

        1. Oh good. And I do support IJ

  2. It makes me angry that the police untrain previously correctly trained drug dogs. They’re not supposed to “alert” on residue (which could be on anything), but the cops don’t like that because it makes forcing unconstitutional searches difficult.

    1. The cops don’t train them to alert on residue, they train them to alert, period. Dogs are trainable because they want to please their master, and they quickly learn that alerting whenever the handler wants them to is what pleases the master. This is why there are so many false alerts.

      1. That does depend on the area and how they manage their K9 units, but yes, I’m absolutely certain that some cops get away with untraining their dogs completely.

        Some areas do force their K9 units to recertify, so they often can’t completely get away with wrecking all the training the dogs are given.

        1. The un-untrainable mutts get broiled alive in a police van.

      2. Let’s not start getting angry at the dogs here. I can assure you they are all good boys. Very good boys.

        1. Whenever a dog does something bad, it is 99.9% of the time the fault of a human.

          1. HELP-HELP-HELP, won’t someone please give me some good advice?!!? I have a most EXCELLENT tax-money-saving idea that I’d like to put in to the Departments of Our Heroic Protectors in Government Almighty all across the land, and I just don’t know WHERE to submit my brilliant money-saving idea; PLEASE help. Idea summary: REAL drug-sniffing dogs are expensive to train, feed, house, and transport. EFFIGY dogs (think sock-puppet-doggie on officer’s hand) would be FAR less expensive! Officer waves sock-puppet-effigy-dog slowly over car, says wuff-wuff-wuff quietly and softly, then reaches trunk of car, goes WOOF-WOOF-WOOF loudly and urgently, now the car can be searched! Problem solved, cost-effectively! Woo-Hoo!!! ? Now? HOW do we spread this most excellent idea? Please advise? This excellent idea brought to you by the Church of Scienfoology, see http://www.churchofsqrls.com/ ?

    2. They don’t bother to “untrain” a dog. I watched CPB use his dog to frame a guy at San Ysidro a few years ago. I was the in the car behind. The officer walked the dog around the car a couple of times, no reaction from the dog. The officer patted the rear fender of the car with his hand – “Here boy!”. The dog responded by jumping on the fender (as all dogs would). They had great fun doing this several times. Driver was ordered to the “Secondary Zone…”

      Drug dogs, as implemented by the typical K-9, cop, are bullshit.

      1. CPB == Customs and Border Patrol, CBP

        Can’t even blame the squirrels on that one.

  3. What, no info on the convictions and jail terms for the interdiction team, aka crooked fucken’ cops, when they were obviously violating people’s rights and lying in their reports. Outfuckingrageous.

    Retire that drug dog too which obviously has been corrupted by its handlers to falsely alert.

  4. “Iowa, which got a D? in the latest I.J. report on civil forfeiture, allows the government to keep seized property based on a “preponderance of the evidence”.

    I disagree with Wickard v. Filburn. I disagree wholeheartedly, but I understand the logic behind it.

    I don’t understand how someone’s property can be seized in connection with a criminal case unless the standard is beyond a reasonable doubt.

    I guess that’s another upside of legalized recreational marijuana. The state can’t hardly use marijuana as a justification for asset “forfeiture” anymore once marijuana is perfectly legal.

    1. They’ll just start sensing cocaine residue.

    2. “I don’t understand how someone’s property can be seized in connection with a criminal case…”

      What about when there is NO criminal case?

      1. Criminality depends on what a reasonable officer or prosecutor believes. It is known.

  5. Trooper Justin Simmons said he pulled the car over because Newmerzhycky failed to signal as he changed lanes, but dashcam video contradicted that claim.

    And the cop who lied under oath was fired, right?

    1. If by “fired” you mean “given a commendation”.

    2. And referred for prosecution too? Seems slam dunk. Claims didn’t signal. Video evidence that the motorist did.

  6. Trooper Justin Simmons said he pulled the car over because Newmerzhycky failed to signal as he changed lanes, but dashcam video contradicted that claim.

    And the local DA notified the state patrol that Simmons would be added to their Brady list, at which point the state patrol terminated Simmons’ employment as he could no longer be called as a credible witness, right? Just like what happens when a cop gets uppity against their department or the DA’s office?

  7. Meanwhile, the Iowa State Patrol has disbanded the interdiction team that was responsible for the traffic stop, although that decision was not part of the settlement agreement and is supposedly unrelated to the case, which drew national attention to Iowa’s forfeiture abuses.

    Because until this case it never occurred to anyone the decision making chain that this was on the wrong side of right or wrong.

  8. “…Trooper Justin Simmons said he pulled the car over because Newmerzhycky failed to signal as he changed lanes,…”

    I, for one, sleep better ant night…

  9. “dog-authorized search”

    So, dogs now sign off on search warrants?

    I suppose that dogs are more competent that the justices who ruled that dogs are competent finders of probable cause.

  10. The purpose of power is power, the purpose of torture is torture, and the purpose of theft is theft.

  11. Most states have a qualifier to the laws requiring use of turn signals… “WHEN it affects other traffic”. If there is no other driver affected by the turn or lane change, then signal is not required. Even so, dashcam video disproves the copper’s initial cause for “contact”? Seems then these coppers LIED. Will they face penalties for THAT? I know if I spin a whopper on the copper, and its found out, that’s a rather serious bust. Were I a judge or jury member, I’d take such false representatations as solid evidence the coppers are unreliable, and I’d disbelieve everything else they said in testimony, and let the accused walk free. WHEN will LE b ehend to the same standards we peons must uphold?

  12. This is a serious win for the “good guys”. It is important to end all these highway robbery scams by public officials.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

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