The town of Mooresville was on the receiving end of a preliminary injunction Wednesday as Judge Mark Klass ruled in the favor of two men who had roughly $14,000 seized from them in May by the Mooresville Police Department.
While the money won't be returned to Shyheim Summers and Tavis Dulin yet, the money will remain in Mooresville while the legal matters play out in civil and criminal court.
The town of Mooresville did not respond to a request for any charges that Summers and Dulin face at this time.
It's been a normal procedure for the Mooresville Police Department to send the money to Homeland Security when confiscating it during investigations, but attorney Ashley Cannon said that puts an unneeded burden on her clients when they attempt to retrieve cash when it isn't linked to any criminal charges.
"The reason we don't want it turned over to Homeland Security is because once it's turned over to Homeland Security, it's nearly impossible for our clients to get that money back," she said.
The two men were sitting in a car near a shopping center on River Highway on May 27. That's when the MPD approached them and asked them to step out of the car and, according to their attorney Ashley Cannon, claimed they had information that they had sold stolen items from a nearby Dick's Sporting Goods. After searching the car, no stolen items were found, but the MPD found 1.62 ounces of marijuana
After that, the $14,000 was confiscated from the men.
In court, Cannon argued that no crime was alleged at the time and the two men were allowed to go with only a warning to stay away from Dick's Sporting Goods. Cannon also argued that it was a misdemeanor amount of marijuana, pointing out they wouldn't need that amount of money to purchase such a small amount of marijuana.
Patrick Flanagan, who represented Mooresville in the civil proceedings, told Klass that it was a legal procedure to have Homeland Security adopt the money, and if there were any issue Summers and Dulin had, it could be taken up on the federal level.
In the end, Klass ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, Summers and Dulin. In Cannon's complaint to the court, she is asking for the money to be returned to the men.
Mooresville and civil forfeiture
But one of the reasons for Cannon seeking the injunction comes as another one of her clients struggles to have the money returned to him despite several court rulings against the town.
Jermaine Sanders had $16,761 seized during an investigation by the MPD last year.
The cash was found on Nov. 16 when the Mooresville officers searched the car Sanders had leased. Police found less than a half an ounce of marijuana in the car along with the cash, reports indicate. On Nov. 23, Mooresville sent the money to Homeland Security in the form of a cashier's check. After the court ruled the money should be returned to Sanders, the town argued they no longer were responsible for the money and that Sanders needed to inquire with the United States Attorney's Office or the Department of Homeland Security about returning the money found in the investigation.
Another judge upheld the ruling that Sanders should have his money returned, and Mooresville, not Homeland Security, was responsible for that. The town was held in contempt of court for not complying with the rulings to return Sanders' cash.
The town appealed that decision.
Cannon said Sanders is still waiting for the money to be returned.
"Our fear is this is going to happen to citizens, day in and day out," Cannon said.
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