Criminal Justice

Prosecutor Extorts $300,000 Out of Alleged Drug Dealer by Threatening His Entire Family With Charges

Patrick Card's story is a case study in how the state uses civil forfeiture to try to coerce plea bargains.

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A prosecutor is injecting new life into the idea that you can buy your freedom in the U.S. criminal legal system.

I mean that literally. As an assistant Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney in Louisville, Kentucky, Joshua Porter charged Patrick Card in 2019 with multiple counts of drug trafficking after the St. Matthews Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office seized a collection of marijuana and pills from his home. As the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting (KCIR) noted, the government seized more than that, taking a total of $380,000 and three Rolex watches. They also froze a bank account with $123,000 belonging to Card's parents, who had not been charged with a crime.

It didn't take long for Porter to change that. The prosecutor pivoted to Card's family and indicted his wife, father, and mother, the latter of whom police had come to help after she called 911 and reported her son for a domestic disturbance. But the charges against his family—which included drug trafficking and complicity to traffic drugs—came appended with a near-immediate way out.

The next day, Porter sent a deal: Forfeit the assets we seized, and we'll drop the charges against your family.

Card declined, setting in motion a legal odyssey that ended in October of last year. The dubious charges against his family were ultimately dismissed, as were the charges against Card himself. But to meet that end, he still had to pay a steep price: Though the government would return the watches and unfreeze the bank account, it would keep $305,050 of the cash.

The case is a study in the nexus between civil forfeiture and coercive plea bargaining, where the former is not only a cash grab meant to keep law enforcement coffers full but is also a tool used to pressure criminal defendants into buckling. It's difficult to defend yourself when the government seizes your means to do so. That becomes a bit darker when the state also appears to leverage your loved ones as pawns.

Consider the case of Carl Nelson, a former real estate transaction manager for Amazon who had almost $1 million taken by the FBI during the course of a federal investigation into whether or not he facilitated shady deals in return for millions of dollars in illegal kickbacks. Two years into that probe, no charges have yet been filed. But the government didn't need to secure an indictment to take the family's assets, which ultimately required the Nelsons to sell their house, liquidate retirement, and move into his wife's sister's basement apartment with their four children.

"If you can't afford to defend yourself, let alone feed yourself," Amy Sterner Nelson told me last month, "it becomes complicated." The bureau recently agreed to return $525,000 to the family.

Civil forfeiture "very often doesn't involve underlying criminal charges," says Dan Alban, an attorney at the Institute for Justice (IJ), a public interest law firm. "The police just seize someone's money, whether they're traveling with it, or seize it from their bank account, and that basically puts the onus on the owner to try to get their property back."  

In that vein, Card may relate with the Nelsons when considering why he caved to the state. "I was exhausted and it was taking a toll on my ability to be mentally, physically and emotionally here for my wife and cousin that lives with us," he said.

The practice isn't uncommon and, as the Nelsons' case illustrates, it doesn't require the government to land an indictment, much less a conviction, if police show there is merely a reason to suspect that various assets were used in the commission of a crime. According to a recent report by IJ, law enforcement has seized at least $68.8 billion from the public over the last two decades, and they get to keep the proceeds.

But apart from the profit motive, Card's case is a reminder that civil forfeiture is good for something else: bending defendants to the government's will.

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  1. This is where reason needs to be. Full time, with top talent doing deep dives.

    1. You won't see this stuff on MSNBC or Fox or in wapo or the NYT. 99.9 percent of the population has no idea this shit is going on.

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      2. I am the person at the title of this article and it doesn’t read as the truth. Disabled: all prescriptions were in my name. “Marijuana” isn’t a criminal charge in Louisville Kentucky we’re this happened, in the small under 1oz amount alleged.. Same corrupt court and city the Breonna Taylor incident occurred. The next day I lost my lawyer to fame and his new crusade; Kenneth Walker. Who was charged and dismissed by the same office as I. Faster than I. With the same lawyer as I. Never sold drugs. Never hurt a sole. Now I’m an “Alleged drug dealer” when you Google me. Joke.
        They dismissed the charges just like they charged them and I had to give up PC for the arrest or continue into civil court over the cash, but 140k in firearms at the time we’re also taken. A lifetime collection as well as things from my late uncle. The corrupt fucks can have the money(eternity in hell was longer than my 57 days in custody over ZERO), took sentimental things too. The Corrupt prosecutors involved are judges and federal prosecutors now. Congratulations ignorant masses. Vote for a criminal.
        Domestic violence? My mom has Alzheimer’s dementia which caused here to have a delusion. The case gave her 3 heart attacks and she was on life support for 10 days. Retired special needs teacher and her husband the retired regional director of veterans affairs. This country and state owes my parents a debt of gratitude not a frivolous malicious indictment.
        This site isn’t accurately reporting per the person they wrote the article about. Alleged drug dealer at 40 without even a speeding ticket on my record. Father had an fbi background check a couple years before as he was a government contractor. This was a joke that’s still in civil litigation and I should shut up about. Fuck that. This story was patch work of other independent pieces.

    2. @BillyBinion Pay Attention! Read Cyto's comment and govern yourself accordingly.

    3. Sadly, Reason is piss poor at political advocacy or changing minds.

      It is mostly preaching to the choir, a choir of slightly contrarian progressives who fancy themselves a bit libertarian. And it is mainly interested in stirring outrage among that group, for clicks, frequently by omitting pertinent information or just getting stories plainly wrong.

      1. Pretty much all the libertarian sites talk about the symptoms and not the disease of government initiating force.

        1. Because there is no treatment for the disease.

      2. I’m Patrick Card and this is a patchwork of others pieces thrown together in moms basement

    4. This is a shit written article the patched out of others work.
      And not the entire truth.
      My life, I lived it.
      False narrative presented in this article

    5. This isn’t a written article it’s cut and paste patched out of others work.
      And not the entire truth.
      My life, I lived it.
      False narrative presented in this article

  2. People: "Defund the police!"

    Police" "Fine. We'll fund ourselves."

    1. That would be more persuasive if the police weren't exploiting civil asset forfeiture long before the start of the "defund the police" meme. If you look at that actual timing, it's more like:

      Police: "We can steal people blind and get away with it."

      People: "Maybe we can't figure out how to stop you from doing that but maybe we should stop paying you to abuse us."

  3. If only the US Constitution had something like this:
    "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,[a] against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized"

    How could they forget that?

    1. Like this, "Government shall not initiate force."

      1. Well they came in a tank.

    2. "Basic 4th and 14th Amendment issues to be sure! 4th reinforced by the 14th.

      1. The no long apply.
        That’s ink on paper and a good story.
        You have no rights, the government just isn’t fucking with you yet.
        No criminal history at 40 and I Google myself and get this clump of mistruths. My life. Article is half bs and all other ppls pieces. Not fact checked. Dumped on this site. Shit news source

      2. The no long apply.
        That’s ink on paper and a good story.
        You have no rights, the government just isn’t fucking with you yet.
        No criminal history at 40 and I Google myself and get this clump of mistruths. My life. Article is half bs and all other ppls pieces. Not fact checked. Dumped on this site. bad news source

    3. You have no constitutional rights
      Did my family. I fought that case as hard as one could and got fucked.

  4. Pure fucking evil.

    1. One prosecutor is running for judge the other already made a federal prosecutor, Josh Porter. The government recruits criminals to become pawn prosecutors.
      This article isn’t 100% factual

  5. We’ll all be buying our freedom from these creeps eventually.

    1. Just as I bought my family’s
      Never committed a crime.
      No family members of mine has a speeding ticket.
      But Google me. I’m an accused drug dealer.
      Still in civil court or I’d go on a rant.
      Corrupt judge, prosecutor and private counsel

  6. A lawyer shall not threaten criminal or administrative charges in order to gain advantage in a civil dispute.
    ~Nearly EVERY State's Rules of Professional Conduct.

    CIVIL asset forfeiture is a CIVIL proceeding (It may be an uncivilized concept, but legally, forfeiture proceedings go on in civil court, not criminal court).

    Disbar this Mother-F***er

    1. One prosecutor is running for judge(and will win) and ones a federal prosecutor. I was threatened not to file a bar complaint by private counsel.
      I’m sorry ethics don’t apply.
      What you read isn’t what’s practiced. The Kentucky Bar knows the state is corrupt.

  7. How common is extortion by the state in our courts?

    Back when I was in my 20s, I got ticketed for running a red light. I was not guilty. I was crossing a 12 lane wide intersection while looking for an address in an unfamiliar location and going very slowly. Light changed while I was in the middle of the intersection.

    So I took it to court.

    The prosecutor checked out my evidence and agreed that the ticket was in error.

    He said he would drop the charges in exchange for a $110 civil penalty.

    What's that?

    "I have to get something for my client" the DA says.

    Otherwise I can come back another day to have a bench trial. Which costs me more than $110 by quite a lot.

    So... Extortion.

    1. Last time I challenged a ticket the judge literally said "You're all guilty. Let's get on with wasting my time." And sure enough, every single person in the room was declared guilty.
      As a side note, outside the courtroom this state trooper who wasn't more than 5'4" was getting right in the face of a young couple, screaming at the top of his lungs about how he's never wrong and threatening them with violence for suggesting it. That's inside the courthouse. Made a huge scene. I thought he was going to hurt someone. Everyone was aghast except the other cops who had big grins.

      1. The judge and the cops should have all been shot dead on the spot. End of story.

  8. Well, I can't find a case where it was shown the cops extorting people for $300,000 was illegal.......I guess it's fine!

    1. Yeppers! Gotta love that court-invented doctrine of qualified immunity.

    2. Far more than extortion occurred. Grand larceny by the police. Tampered with the pills. Added a fake $50 bill.
      That was my medication and I’m disabled; not drugs. Weeds decriminalized here. Should be mentioned. I had m&ms too. Neither are criminal in Louisville Kentucky.

    3. Far more than extortion occurred. Grand larceny by the police. Tampered with the pills. Added a fake $50 bill.
      That was my medication and I’m disabled; not drugs. Weeds decriminalized here. Shouldn’t be mentioned. I had m&ms too. Neither are criminal in Louisville Kentucky.

  9. What about just stealing people's boats because you dont like the government of their national origin? Seems legit...

    1. As long as you have a letter of Marque and reprisal.

      1. If you look up the history of asset forfeiture, that's actually where it started. As in taking boats of people suspected of engaging in illegal trade or other crimes.

        1. that was to Chipper

          1. No, it was just chipper enough.

        2. It originally applied to piracy on the high seas.

        3. If you look up the crooked prosecutor in the article he is becoming a judge. Other is already a federal prosecutor

  10. But really, it's hardly unusual for the plea bargain script to contain "Don't fight, take a plea, and we'll let your loved ones walk." At this point, adding money to the script is just a slight further nudge of the accepted Overton Window.

    1. Is for me.
      Ever been maliciously prosecuted.
      I committed no crime and the arrest was false.
      I’m 40 with no criminal record not even traffic tickets

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  12. Man sure lied on this shitshow.
    Thanks for making me click bait.
    Write your own articles.

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