Muskogee County, good enough. district attorney Orvil Loge informed Gawker this afternoon that prosecutors will return $53,234 in seized belongings to Eh Wah, a person who became pulled over in February whereas carrying the money for a Burmese Christian rock band. Loge noted his workplace also dropped a criminal crook charge against Eh Wah, who had been accused of "buying proceeds from drug undertaking."
The information comes hours after the libertarian nonprofit legislation enterprise Institute for Justice announced in a free up to newshounds that it became representing Eh Wah in courtroom. The Institute for Justice highlighted Eh Wah's case as a particularly vivid illustration of the risks of civil forfeiture, a a good deal-criticized technique wherein legislation enforcement officers can trap cash and property that they trust is connected to crook pastime, without charging the house owner with against the law.
in lots of circumstances, police departments are entitled to a share of the property and assets they seize, making civil forfeiture big business for the cops. In 2014 by myself, American law enforcement officers seized a total of $four.5 billion from residents in forfeiture moves.
Eh Wah's case stood out now not for the dimension of the bounty, however for the obvious vastness of the difference between the accusations against him and his actual conduct. As a volunteer tour manager for Christian track community Klo & Kweh music team, he was carrying cash that the musicians had acquired in donations and ticket and merchandise sales, some of which had been set aside for donations to a faculty in Burma and an orphanage in Thailand.
A Muskogee County sheriff's deputy who pulled Eh Wah over for driving with a damaged tail gentle in February seized the money as a result of he suspected it turned into proceeds from drug income. The deputy wrote in a sworn affidavit that a ok-9 unit had alerted on Eh Wah's motor vehicle, and that Eh Wah—who speaks imperfect English—gave "inconsistent reviews" concerning the nature of the money.
District attorney Loge elaborated about these alleged inconsistencies in a cellphone interview this afternoon. When Eh Wah turned into first stopped, he observed that he did not have any funds in the motor vehicle, and simplest instructed the deputy about Klo & Kweh song group after the deputy searched the vehichle and found a couple of containers of money, according to Loge.
but after reviewing the particulars of the case this morning, Loge noted, he came to consider he couldn't meet the burden of proof in Loge's crook case or in the civil forfeiture case. "I needed to do what's correct, and that's to come the funds to him and his attorneys," Loge mentioned.
as the Tulsa World cited in a narrative about the seizure, an try to reform Oklahoma's asset forfeiture laws—which the Institute for Justice has known as among the many worst in the country—was foiled within the state legislature last 12 months. "We've considered in Oklahoma — through county commissioner scandals, Supreme court justice scandals — if we let individuals go with none exams and balances in region, dangerous things happen," State Senator Kyle Loveless, who introduced the reform bill, advised NPR.
Loge, despite the fact, contends that the Eh Wah case turned into no longer indicative of a bigger problem with civil forfeiture in Oklahoma or in different places. "Oklahoma civil forfeiture is designed to allow legislations enforcement to take drug proceeds or criminal proceeds off the streets," he advised Gawker. "It's additionally designed that if proceeds are taken, and that they're no longer criminal proceeds, that these be returned to their lawful owner. It took place the style it turned into designed. Mr. Wah without his funds for over two months, however his funds is being again to him, and to his trigger."