Attorney For California Poker Pros Who Lost $100k To Police Discusses Case
The lawyer for two California poker players who were pulled over and relieved of $100,000 in cash by aggressive Iowa drug police recently gave an interview in which he described how civil asset forfeitures have become a major problem on America’s roadways.
For drug police, everyone is a smuggler
Last year, William “Bart” Davis and John Newmerzhycky were driving through Iowa after returning from a poker tournament. The men, who were traveling in a car with out-of-state license plates, were stopped by a member of the state’s drug interdiction team, who searched their car without consent and found bundles of cash totaling $100,000.
Even though they explained that they were professional poker players, the officer kept all of the cash and even called California police to suggest the two might be drug traffickers. Cops in their home state eventually raided their houses and hit them with marijuana charges, even though the two both held a license to consume the drug medically.
Now, the pair is fighting to get the money back, and their lawyer, Glen Downey, recently spoke to CardPlayer about the case.
“There isn’t anything illegal about carrying around large sums of cash, but it seems that Drug Interdiction Officers are trained to think that there’s something suspicious going on,” said Downey.
Scaring drivers into forfeiting money
He gave as an example a video shown in a recent Washington Post article on the issue. In it, officers find $6,000 which a man says he won during a trip to Las Vegas. “Good luck proving that buddy, you will burn that up in attorney’s fees before we ever give a dime back to you,” the officer told him.
According to Downey, police are now effectively accepting bribes to let people off the hook, or at least stop hassling them. “The tactic is to find a large amount of cash. They won’t criminally charge you if you sign a piece of paper saying that you don’t know where it came from,” he said. “It’s giving the cops the cash in exchange for them not trying to charge you.”
He explained that police such as the Iowa interdiction troopers have evolved their methods so that they can pull over virtually anyone they want, and scare them into giving up their cash, even if they’re not doing anything illegal. The officers can always say that a driver appeared nervous, or his car was too clean for a road trip — or not clean enough — or any number of other things to find a reason to search the car.
In regards to his clients, he claims that they never gave the police permission to conduct the search in the first place. If that were the case, says Downey, any discoveries that were made as a result would not be admissible as evidence against them.
The men continue to fight against the state and hope to at least see a portion of the money which the interdiction team confiscated. In the meantime, they say, their health, finances and reputation have been hugely affected by the ordeal.