Prosecutor Extorts $300,000 Out of Alleged Drug Dealer by Threatening His Entire Family with Charges

The idea that the U.S. penal legal system can be used to buy your freedom is being revived by a prosecutor.

This is how I see it. As an assistant Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney in Louisville, Kentucky, Joshua Porter charged Patrick Card in 2019 with multiple counts of drug trafficking after the St. Matthews Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office seized a collection of marijuana and pills from his home. The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting noted that the government seized much more, including three Rolex watches and $380,000. Card’s parents had never been charged, but the government also frozen a bank account containing $123,000.

Porter made the change quickly. Card’s family was the focus of the prosecution, who indicted Card’s wife, mother and father. The latter had been questioned by police. Help After calling 911, she reported her son as a domestic disturbance. But the charges against his family—which included drug trafficking and complicity to traffic drugs—came appended with a near-immediate way out.

Porter made a deal the next day: We’ll forfeit all assets that we have seized and drop charges against you family.

Card refused, which set off a legal journey that culminated in October last year. His family was cleared of the charges, and Card was also freed from all charges. However, Card had to be paid a heavy price. Although the government agreed to return his watches and to unfreeze his bank account, $305,050 would remain.

This case is an example of the interplay between civil forfeiture (and coercive, plea bargaining), where the latter is not just a way to make law enforcement money but also serves as a pressure tool to get criminal defendants to buck up. When the government takes your assets, it can be difficult to defend oneself. It gets even worse when you consider your close friends and family as pawns.

Carl Nelson was a former Amazon real estate transaction manager. This man had nearly $1 million confiscated by the FBI as part of an investigation that looked into whether illegal kickbacks were involved in facilitating shady transactions in return for millions. After two years, there have not been any charges. However, the government was not required to indict the Nelsons for taking their assets. The Nelsons were eventually forced to sell their house and liquidate their retirement to be able to live in the apartment of his sister with their four children.

Amy Sterner Nelson said last month that “if you cannot afford to defend yourself, or even feed yourself,” it can become complicated. Recently, the bureau agreed to pay $525,000 back to my family.

Dan Alban, an attorney from the Institute for Justice (IJ), says civil forfeiture is “very rarely involves underlying criminal cases.” The police simply seize money from someone, regardless of whether it’s being taken with them on their travels or taken out of their bank accounts. That basically means that the property owner is responsible for trying to recover their assets.  

Card could be thinking in the same vein as the Nelsons about why he agreed to state aid. He said that he was tired and that it was affecting his ability to care for his wife and the cousin who live with him.

This is not a common practice. As the Nelsons case illustrates it, the government doesn’t have to indict or even convict anyone if they can prove that there’s a legitimate reason. Suspect It was found that many assets were used to commit a crime. IJ recently reported that the government has seized at most $68.8billion from the public within the last 20 years, and the proceeds are theirs.

Card’s case reminds us that civil forfeiture goes beyond the profit motive. It can also be used for other purposes, such as bending the wills of defendants.