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Government stealing more money than the criminals, says Loveless in wake of asset forfeiture case

Penny Ridenour / Red Dirt Report
Pipes sold at The Friendly Market in Norman, Oklahoma.
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NORMAN, Okla. -- In 1775, government officials were able to seize property from individuals and business, without filing charges against the citizen and use that money to fund law enforcement. 

Whoops, that date is wrong – this scenario is playing out in 2015.

“For the first time in American history, the government has seized more money than was stolen by criminals in 2014,” Sen Kyle Loveless (R) said about the recently released federal crime statistics.  Loveless is a vocal speaker on the platform of reform for civil asset forfeiture.

Asset forfeiture was approved in 1985 as a weapon in the war on drugs, but like a cosmic vacuum that sucks up diamonds as well as dust, innocent people have lost sizeable assets in the fray. The term “innocent’ is used because no court ever proved them guilty as the assets were forfeited and charges were never filed. 

“In Oklahoma, it has become a business issue because businesses use cash and they are seizing cash,” he said.  He said the average forfeiture is $1,200. 

State Sen. Kyle Loveless (R-Oklahoma City) fighting against civil asset forfeiture corruption. (Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report)

Case in point is the recent charges filed against the owner and manager of the Friendly Market in Norman, where policed raided the smoke shop and seized glass pipes as drug paraphernalia. 

Brecken Wagner, attorney for the defendants, said he cannot speak to the motivation of the Cleveland County District Attorney, but said it is a real problem to incentivize the police to seize property. 

The aforementioned  general manager of the Friendly Market,  Stephen Tyler Holman also serves on the Norman City Council and has also been vocal proponent of reform for the forfeiture laws. 

The Cleveland County District Attorney was not available for comment, but the court must find that the glass pipes meet the legal definition of drug paraphernalia, as nearly any innocuous object can be used to consume drugs.

Holman, and the owner of the Friendly Market, Robert Cox, are receiving an outpouring of support on social media and several sign-bearing protesters lined the courthouse steps for their arraignment.     

Norman City Councilman Stephen Tyler Holman under fire by out-of-control justice system in that Oklahoma community. (The Norman Transcript)

One Facebook post states: “My issue with this whole thing is selective enforcement. Every gas station in town has rolling papers. Why don't the cops raid 7-11?”

The next step for defendants is a conference meeting with the District Attorney.  Wagner said the only solution acceptable to his clients is complete dismissal and return of the $10,000 worth of store inventory as well as $2,000 in cash seized earlier this month.

The Friendly Market removed the items from their shelves after similar raids on other businesses last year, but restocked the items after they reportedly sought legal counsel that the items are legal for sale.

“I have a problem with the whole issue of a business being asked not to sell something that is legal,” said Wagner. “No one asked my clients not to do something.  They were intimidated (by police) not to do something.  What part of a free country does that fit in?” Wagner said.

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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