Law Enforcement Forced To Hand Over $41K It Seized From Businessman At Airport, Plus Another $10K In Legal Fees
from the felled-by-their-own-bullshittery dept
An unidentified Techdirt reader sends in the news that Arizona law enforcement is going to be handing over $10,000 to Madji Khaleq as a result of a failed asset forfeiture attempt. This would be in addition to the $41,870 the DEA already handed back to Khaleq -- every cent of the cash federal agents seized from him at the Tucson airport.
Khaleq had a legitimate reason to be carrying $40K in cash on him.
Court documents show Khaleq told the Drug Enforcement Administration agent who seized the money that he owned a convenience store and check-cashing business in Denver, as well as a wholesale electronics distributorship in California. He said he came to Tucson to buy a smoke shop on South 12th Avenue, but the deal fell through.But the DEA firmly believes cash = drugs even when there's no evidence pointing towards illicit sources or uses for the funds, so it relieved Khaleq of his burdensome bankroll. Local law enforcement then swooped in to claim its part in the haul… only to return it when Khaleq lawyered up.
Khaleq challenged the seizure in Pima County Superior Court and the Pima County Attorney’s Office withdrew its request for forfeiture of the money in November.The $10,000 in legal fees due Khaleq will come from the County Attorney's Office and a Tucson-based counter-narcotics task force. Apparently the DEA has washed its hands of the whole affair after giving Khaleq the money it took from him.
The government is unhappy to be paying a drug trafficker an additional $10,000. Oh, yeah. It still believes Khaleq is involved in drug trafficking despite losing this lawsuit and 10 grand in discretionary spending.
In the March 10 stipulation of dismissal, Deputy County Attorney Edward Russo said the $10,000 is not an admission that Khaleq has shown he is “entitled to an award of attorney’s fees, costs or damages in this action.”Also:
When asked if the County Attorney’s Office still suspected Khaleq of being involved in illicit activity, Johnson said: “Yes, we don’t just take money from people for no reason.”The hell you don't.
And that's not the full extent of the government's BS. During its fight to keep the uncharged Khaleq from recovering his money, the County Attorney's Office attempted to keep Khaleq as far away from his money and his Fifth Amendment rights as possible.
Russo had asked Aragon on Jan. 11 if the county could present a report on a federal investigation purportedly of Khaleq without Khaleq or his attorney present.Fortunately, a judge stepped in and prevented the government from further abusing Khaleq. Even when the government is clearly in the wrong, it still insists it's right. No admission of wrongdoing despite losing badly enough that the plaintiff was awarded legal fees on top of his original funds, and law enforcement still insists Khaleq is involved in illegal activity despite his lack of a rap sheet and zero evidence in hand to support its claims.
[Judge Gus] Aragon denied the request, saying that to grant the request “would violate basic concepts of fairness and due process.”