Iowa’s controversial civil forfeiture program is back in the news.
Two California gamblers whose $100,020 poker bankroll was seized after a warrantless search by two Iowa State troopers are free to move forward with the lawsuit filed last September in federal court.
In his ruling, U.S. judge James Gritzner wrote that Iowa State Troopers and Desert Snow acted as part of a conspiracy to violate Newmerzhycky and Davis’ constitutional rights.
The lawsuit names Justin Simmons and Eric VanderWiel, as well as Desert Snow, a privately owned company that offers training to officers in conducting roadside searches for contraband such as weapons and drugs.
The company has been the subject of increased scrutiny for allegedly teaching tactics that are questionable, such as pulling drivers over solely for having out of state license plates.
William “Bart” Davis and John Newmerzhycky were driving back to California from a World Series of Poker (WSOP) Circuit event in April 2013 when the police pulled them over due to a purported failure to signal a change in lanes, which was the trooper’s justification for the stop. However, the argument made by the pair’s attorney’s is that the video from the officer’s patrol car shows that Newmerzhycky did signal properly.
A modest amount of cannabis (0.001 grams) in addition to the cash, was found by the troopers during the search, for which both men had California medical marijuana cards from their place of permanent residence.
Not only were the pair’s bank accounts frozen, but they both received felony charges in California, according to an article on Cardschat. In addition, both spent thousands of dollars to clear their names, and of the $90,000 that was eventually returned to them through a settlement agreement with the Poweshiek County Attorney’s Office, 30 percent went towards legal bills.
Nearly $43 million in cash and property has been seized over the last six years under Iowa’s controversial civil forfeiture scheme.