Property Cash, Jewelry, Truck Were Seized From Man Convicted On Drug Charges.

A man convicted on drug charges in the 1980s is trying to force the
Anchorage Police Department to return money, jewelry, a truck and other
property seized in connection with his arrest.

Federal and state laws allow the government to seize and, with court
approval, keep money and property associated with drug profits. The process
is called forfeiture.

But Wilton Toney, 47, says Anchorage police and prosecutors illegally
handed more than $200,000 in seized cash and property over to the federal
Drug Enforcement Administration, which obtained court approval to dispose
of the property, including $94,000 in cash, $119,000 in jewelry, and a Ram
Charger, then split the take among three law enforcement agencies.

The police even went into Toney's locker at jail and seized the jewelry he
was wearing when he was arrested, said attorney Arthur Robinson during
opening statements of Toney's lawsuit Wednesday.

The state had no right to sign Toney's property over to the feds without
first going into state court where Toney would have had an opportunity to
argue that it was not drug proceeds, Robinson said. Toney worked for a
bingo parlor and had other profitable business interests at the time, he said.

APD, the DEA and the Alaska State Troopers, who shared proceeds of the
forfeiture, conspired to dispose of Toney's property without due process,
Robinson charged.

Since the seized property is no longer available to be returned, the city
should be forced to reimburse Toney, he said.

"This case is about dollars and cents and due process," Robinson told jurors.

But attorney Jim Gilmore, representing the city, said police and
prosecutors believed they were acting lawfully.

Back in the late 1980s, everyone believed the law allowed the state to
transfer seized drug proceeds to the DEA for processing, Gilmore said.
Police did so routinely because the feds were good at doing the
administrative follow-up, he said. They did not do it to short-circuit
anyone's due process rights.

It was only much later that Alaska courts decided property seized in state
cases had to be processed through state courts before being sold.

Besides, Gilmore said, the result would have been the same whoever
processed the property because there was ample evidence the seized goods
were drug related.

Police stopped Toney in his truck and arrested him after months of
surveillance, Gilmore said. Among the items found in the truck were drugs
and $72,000 in cash in a sock under the driver's seat. At Toney's Muldoon
home, they found kilo wrappers, rubber gloves, a voice scrambler and a
stress analyzer, he said.

Since the seized property would have been forfeited in either state or
federal court, Toney didn't lose any more than he would have if the
processing had been done in state court, Gilmore said.

The DEA notified Toney of its intention to keep his property back in 1988
and 1989 and gave him time to challenge it, Gilmore said. "He didn't do
anything," so he shouldn't be allowed to claim now that he was wronged.

Robinson said nobody explained to Toney what was actually happening at the
time.

Toney filed his lawsuit in 1995. Before the rules changed, local defense
attorneys had been complaining for years that the state sent all its drug
forfeitures to the feds because the DEA had rules that made taking property
easier.

The trial is expected to take about two weeks.


Webpage: http://www.adn.com/alaska/story/1722598p-1839186c.html
Copyright: 2002 The Anchorage Daily News
Contact: letters@adn.com
Website: http://www.adn.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/18
Author: Sheila Toomey
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/af.htm (Asset Forfeiture)