Iowa Taxpayers Handing Out $60K Settlement To California Gamblers Who Were Legally Robbed Of $100K By State Troopers

from the we'll-keep-taking-stuff-as-long-as-you-guys-keep-giving-til-it-hurts dept

A couple of years ago, two victims of Iowa’s Snatch and Grab drug interdiction team saw $100,000 in cash disappear into the pockets of state police following a dubious traffic stop. The state ultimately returned 90% of the seized cash to the California natives, but not before calling in a tip to California law enforcement to cause additional problems for them once they returned home.

The Iowa State Police’s Fishing Expedition Unit noted — during its attempt to retain “ownership” of money it couldn’t prove was connected to anything illegal — that the two Californian poker players set off all sorts of “suspicious behavior” alarms when stopped, including indicators that contradicted other indicators. From the 2014 lawsuit:

Defendant Desert Snow and Joe David’s training taught Trooper Simmons that completely innocent behaviors were indicators of criminal activity, including:

Dark window tinting
Air fresheners or their smell
Trash littering a vehicle
An inconsistent or unlikely travel story
A vehicle on a long trip that is clean or lacks baggage
A profusion of energy drinks
A driver who is too talkative, or too quiet
Signs of nervousness, such as sweating, swallowing or redness of face
Designer apparel or other clothing that seems inappropriate
Multiple cellphones

More than three years later, Iowan taxpayers are going to have to reach into their own pockets to finish paying the interdiction unit’s tab.

Iowa announced Monday that it has disbanded its state forfeiture team and — in a separate move — also agreed to pay $60,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by two California gamblers whose bankroll was seized during a warrantless search in 2013 by two Iowa State Patrol troopers.

The other good news is the disbanding of the “state forfeiture team,” as the Des Moines Register honestly calls it. The State Police preferred to call its highway banditry something less patently obvious: “Criminal Interdiction Team” and, later, “Special Operations Unit.” Honestly, it could have just been called the Nottingham Sheriff’s Department Revenue Diversion Unit. Data compiled by the Quad-City Times shows the unit did most of its “work” within five miles of the state border.

The busiest single location for traffic stops in Iowa was near mile marker 5 on I-80 not far from the Nebraska border. The specially trained troopers issued 785 tickets and warnings there as part of the 4,027 citations and warnings issued in Pottawattamie County.

The easiest money often comes from people just passing through. Travel to and from nearly any state can be viewed as “suspicious” by law enforcement officers — as can nearly any and all driver behavior. Here’s a fantastic bit of suspicioning from another member of the state’s Legalized Theft Team, as called out by the judge tossing out evidence obtained during a warrantless search.

As for the trooper’s assertion that Hanrahan was still nervous even after he was told he would only receive a warning, nervousness alone, under these circumstances, did not generate reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to provide grounds for a warrantless search. See United States v. Guerrero, 374 F.3d 584, 590 (8th Cir.2004)(“[I]t cannot be deemed unusual for a person to exhibit signs of nervousness when confronted by an officer.”); Beck, 140 F.3d at 1129(same). The trooper’s reliance on this factor is particularly questionable to the extent it was based on Hanrahan’s apology for speeding and his statement that “he would absolutely slow down.” In the trooper’s view, Hanrahan’s response was suspicious because “most people that aren’t doing something wrong, they are almost offended that you stopped them for a minor violation instead of someone else.” In our view, nothing in Hanrahan’s courteous and respectful answer could be construed as suspect.

The “interdictions” will not halt completely, however. They’ll just be more distributed.

Jeff Thompson, also of Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller’s office, told the board Monday that the Iowa Department of Public Safety had disbanded the interdiction team. He said state and local law enforcement agencies may continue to pursue forfeitures but not under the concerted effort of the longtime interdiction team. He said the decision to disband was not based on Monday’s settlement.

“It (the interdiction team) essentially led to a number of stops and seizures,” Thompson said. “The whole process, that whole concept, has been somewhat under attack.”

The interdiction team was dismantled because of increased personnel demands, including increased focus to reduce Iowa traffic deaths, said Sgt. Nathan Ludwig of the Iowa State Patrol. There are no plans to resurrect the team. The troopers assigned to the interdiction unit have been reassigned to general patrol duties, he said.

At least the attorney general’s office recognizes civil asset forfeiture is, at the very least, controversial. The reassignment of officers should break up the campouts on the Nebraska border, but there will still be ample opportunities to turn routine traffic stops into Diving for Dollars. At the very least, traffic patrol officers might be a bit more focused on preventing deaths than preventing any seizable cash from escaping the state.

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Comments on “Iowa Taxpayers Handing Out $60K Settlement To California Gamblers Who Were Legally Robbed Of $100K By State Troopers”

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52 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

As it should be!

“Iowa Taxpayers Handing Out $60K Settlement To California Gamblers Who Were Legally Robbed Of $100K By State Troopers”

Sorry but this is exactly as it should be. If the taxpayers want to stop funding their fuck ups they will vote in officials that will solve the problem. Until then… pay up… it is LITERALLY what they voted for!

Every nation gets the government it deserves, no exception!

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: The best job around

Ah public office, where it doesn’t matter how badly you screw up, it’s always someone else that pays the bill, and where you have people defending your complete and utter lack of personal responsibility by blaming the people that are stuck paying out in your stead, because blaming those actually responsible would be unfair, given being voted into public office is always paired with a complete removal of free will.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The best job around

yes, yours.

He was clearly being sarcastic about my post and just called me a victim blamer in a different way, which is typical for ignorant Americans that think they know how it should work but fundamentally lack a clue.

Citizens are not the victims in this game, they are perpetrators that cry about being victims because they have become cowards. The Declaration of Independence indicates that it is the duty of the citizens to throw off any unjust governments or they suffer under them. If a citizenry wishes to shirk that duty, then they cannot complain about the consequences. Hench the “Every nation gets the government it deserves” quote I added.

He made it clear that he does not understand that responsibility and chooses to instead sit back, do nothing, and just run his mouth hand-wringing over the fact that someone is placing the blame right where it should be.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 The best job around

Citizens are not the victims in this game, they are perpetrators that cry about being victims because they have become cowards.

Just because the public might be to blame for not ‘Voting better!’ doesn’t mean those in office aren’t to blame for their actions, unless, as I noted in my response, being voted into public office automatically strips you of your free will, making you unable to do anything that conflicts with what the public wants.

If Person A hires Person B to run a bank, and they instead rob the bank, would you point to A and say ‘Well, it’s their fault, they should have hired someone else, therefore they should be punished’ while completely ignoring that B was the one who actually committed the robbery?

If a citizenry wishes to shirk that duty, then they cannot complain about the consequences. Hench the "Every nation gets the government it deserves" quote I added.

So just to save time, if I copy/pasted my questions to the last time you pulled out the ‘Every nation gets the government they deserve’ dealing with what happens if you’re not in the majority, will you not answer that this time too?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 The best job around

“Just because the public might be to blame for not ‘Voting better!’ doesn’t mean those in office aren’t to blame for their actions,”

O yes… blaming the citizens for their part is totally also stating that the corrupt officials are not to blame AT ALL!

Did you get your logic from a crack-jack box? You need to get a refund if you did.

“So just to save time, if I copy/pasted my questions to the last time you pulled out the ‘Every nation gets the government they deserve’ dealing with what happens if you’re not in the majority, will you not answer that this time too?”

Like all ‘self-evident’ things, it explains itself if you just think about it. The word nation speak to the whole, not the individual, perhaps if you could understand that you will finally get it. Like a generalization it talks about and blames the majority in standing, it does not nullify any exceptions, or blame those in the minority. So clearly the majority of Americans like or at the very least are okay enough with this system or there would be effort to change or challenge it. Therefore, every nation gets the government it deserves, and therefore makes the citizens responsible because they ignored their duty to throw off such forms of government.

kallethen says:

Re: Re: Re:3 The best job around

Victim blaming? I think you took the wrong understanding of his message. I understood it to say that it’s a shame that the public citizens have to pay for the mistakes and misdeeds of the officials who did the wrong, and that the officials just get a slap on the wrist. The blame and punishment should ideally be on the officials doing the wrong.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 The problem is multifaceted

The “blame”, if you will, is a distributed sort. The problems exist due to a multitude of factors and there are many who bare responsibility for this situation.

The general citizenry has responsibility for the officials it elects, the officials have responsibility for the policies it puts in place, the LE has responsibility for how they carry out what they do.

If none of these groups makes changes then all are responsible for the situation at hand.

Simple See.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 The best job around

If I took the wrong understanding then he needs to respond that I am mistaken.

I think it was clear he was being sarcastic. Read it a few more times, the “because blaming those actually responsible would be unfair, given being voted into public office is always paired with a complete removal of free will.” makes it pretty clear to me that he is in a round about way of saying that I am victim blaming by making fun of me by implying that I think that an elected official cannot possibly act against the will of the people.

He directly implies that my blaming of the people is somehow NOT blaming the officials, and no where do I make the claim that official are blameless. He is making a false inference and trying to drag the conversation in the wrong direction for an unknown purpose.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 The best job around

Sarcastic-ish.

Kallenthen seems to have picked up on my intent for the most part, the disgust that the ones who actually do the ‘crime’ get a slap on the wrist, while the taxpayers who’s crime was electing the ‘wrong’ people get saddled with the bill, leaving the punishment ineffective and hitting the wrong people.

My comment was less a response to yours in particular and more a moment of venting against the idea as I’ve seen it kicked around for years, where a public official of some kind screws up/screws someone over, the public gets the bill, and the response at times is an almost gleeful ‘Hah, the public had it coming for not picking someone better!’

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 The best job around

Be fair, That One Guy; I think that what he really means is that the public needs to be more willing to hold their representatives’ feet to the fire over incidents like this instead of automatically kow-towing to authority figures and keeping their heads down.

I share that opinion. Your civic duty doesn’t end at the ballot box on election day.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: As it should be!

nitwit… I think you mean to ask, what Government do I deserve? That question is out of context, because I am talking about whole groups of people.

As a whole… the nation gets the government it deserves, which means there is the possibility that the people themselves may not get the nation they deserve, and in the case of the people getting some of their stolen money back they are getting compensated for a corrupt government. Now, that said, the voters have made it expressly clear that corruption in government is more than fine, they actually prefer it! So therefore, the tax payers DESERVE to foot the bill.

It’s not hard to figure these things out folks.

The Reichstag fire, and Paul von Hindenburg's emer says:

Re: Re: Re: As it should be!

"Nations get the government’s they deserve…"

Hahahahahahah! Bullcrap. You clearly don’t know history pal. Hitler’s ghost and the rise of the National Socialist Party in Germany just took a giant dump on your shitty opinion.

What you’re doing is victim blaming in the most naive and infantile way. Does the word CHANGE not mean anything to you? Change? No? Because Hitler changed once he was in power, on day one. And no one saw what was coming.

I’m betting when you read in the news about a nasty brutal case of domestic violence you think "well, it’s her fault because she hooked up with the guy".

I’m calling you a scumbag. And yeah, Godwin.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Everything is suspicious when you're looking for an easy payday

Air fresheners or their smell

Don’t like the way your car smells? Deal with it, only criminals like cars to smell nice.

Trash littering a vehicle

So keep a clean car to avoid suspicion, got it.

A vehicle on a long trip that is clean or lacks baggage

… except that having a clean vehicle is itself a suspicious fact.

A profusion of energy drinks
A driver who is too talkative, or too quiet

Good thing energy drinks aren’t, you know, meant to give people energy, and therefore likely to give them the jitters and make them talkative. Also exactly what are the definitions of ‘too talkative’ or ‘too quiet’?

Signs of nervousness, such as sweating, swallowing or redness of face

Remember, just because you’re dealing with one or more people who can literally rob you at gunpoint and arrest and/or kill you for objecting, who can and will consider a clean or dirty car as grounds to do so, no need to be nervous!

Designer apparel or other clothing that seems inappropriate

Translation: Don’t dress in a way that makes it look like you have any notable amount of money to steal. Also make sure to call ahead and get fashion tips from any police that you might encounter.

With how insanely wide the ‘suspicious activity’ list they were using they should have just summed it up as ‘Because the officer felt like it’.

I.T. Guy says:

My driving record is taller than I am. Not once when being pulled over did I ever deny why.
“Do you know why I pulled you over?”
Yes Officer I was speeding.
“Do you know why I pulled you over?”
Yes Officer, my tag was last registered in 84.”
“Do you know why I pulled you over?”
Yes Officer it’s because my exhaust is loud.
“Do you know why I pulled you over?”
Is it that mailbox on my bumper and the bald front tire?

Ok so that last one isn’t exactly true.

My advice if you need to travel the interstate… look poor. No jewelry, sweats and a tee shirt. Tint your windows, but not too dark. Smell good, but not too good. Be dirty, but not too dirty. Be clean, but not too clean. KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING. Keep a couple bags of luggage in the back seat. And for the love of Rod do not talk too much, or too little.

Follow my advice and you too can have a safe fun trip on the many interstates of the US of A.

jimb (profile) says:

safety first?

“The interdiction team was dismantled because of increased personnel demands, including increased focus to reduce Iowa traffic deaths…” Wait – what?! The Iowa State Police are going to stop collecting cash forfeitures in order to focus on “traffic safety”?! This sounds like smoke-screen spin to my cynical judgement. I doubt that a piddly $60K settlement is enough to make up for the reapings they must surely have grabbed over the years. Perhaps the judicial scrutiny (must not be giving the courts a big enough cut…) have something to do with it. Since when has law enforcement been about enhancing safety, and “protecting and serving” the public? Unless we perhaps consider a seizure to be a form of ‘you’ve been served!’. Anyway, its nice to find one such illegal seizure forced back to the rightful owners by the courts, which are usually all too willingly complicit in this literal highway robbery.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Iowa Taxpayers Handing Out $60K Settlement To California Gamblers Who Were Legally Robbed Of $100K By State Troopers”

Hang on a sec … so the cops steal someone’s money, were told that was wrong and (some of) the money has to be returned – and here’s the interesting part – the tax payers have to foot the bill because the idiot cops already spent the money on hookers and coke. What a racket.

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