Two poker players who had their money confiscated while driving through the state of Iowa with out-of-state plates in April 2013 have settled their lawsuit.
The settlement ends a horrific ordeal that began with them renting a car to go to a poker tournament in Illinois. They said they were victims of “highway robbery.”
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According to a report from the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Iowa announced Monday that it agreed to a $60,000 settlement with California-based poker players William “Bart” Davis and John Newmerzhycky.
Iowa, known as the Hawkeye state, is an excellent choice for those of you who enjoy various types of poker. The state doesn’t only provide a large variety of land-based casinos that feature poker but also allows friendly home-based games along with multiple charity events.
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The state also said that it has disbanded its Drug Interdiction Team, a reportedly small step toward potentially solving the problem of people being pulled over without cause and having their money taken. Seizures like the one that happened to Davis and Newmerzhycky reportedly can still happen in Iowa, but not under the coordination of a forfeiture team.
Law enforcement said the forfeiture team was disbanded because police needed to be reassigned to other duties and that the decision wasn’t because of the incident involving Davis and Newmerzhycky.
An investigation from the Des Moines Register found that over the years state and local law enforcement have taken at least $55 million in cash from people, many of whom weren’t charged criminally. The allegation is that the police are abusing civil asset forfeiture.
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Newmerzhycky and Davis had $100,000 seized by police in the traffic stop that began because they allegedly failed to use a turn signal. Video confirmed that they properly signaled. The poker players argued that the traffic stop was illegal.
They did not consent to a vehicle search.
Eventually, $90,000 of it was returned. The poker players sued in 2014 for damages and attorney fees (they had to spend about $30,000 to get the $90,000 back). In total, they are receiving $150,000 from the ordeal, minus attorney fees.
Police originally justified keeping the money because there were “0.001 grams” of marijuana in the vehicle, according to Davis. Both men have medial marijuana cards in California. Newmerzhycky ended up pleading guilty to misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.
“They took everything that I owned at that point in my life,” Newmerzhycky told Card Player in 2014. “My game was just starting to get on point and we decided to take that road trip…[T]hose Iowa cops pretty much put an end to [my poker playing] too and ruined my life. I had people willing to back me at the time, but after this happened that was all off the table. Basically, I had to move out of my house and be homeless for awhile because I couldn’t pay my mortgage. I had to rent out my home.”
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