Iowa Police Ordered To Return Money To Poker PlayersDecember 8, 2016 12:40 pm
Two Californian poker players who had $100,020 of their funds seized by Iowa Police in April 2013 have finally reached the end of their ordeal after the state agreed to compensate the men with $60,000 in damages.
While driving to a poker tournament in Illinois, William Davis and John Newmerzhycky were stopped by police officers. Despite both men being medical marijuana license holders, the police officers discovered 0.001 grams of marijuana residue in the vehicle, and subsequently used controversial civil forfeiture laws to confiscate their bankrolls.
Stating that they had been the victims of an illegal search, and describing the incident as “highway robbery”, William Davis and John Newmerzhycky eventually had to spend around $30,000 in order to get just $90,000 of their money returned. In 2014, the men then filed a lawsuit in a federal district for damages and attorney fees, with the case finally settled at the beginning of this week.
Despite their eventual success, the incident has had a heavy toll on the poker players, with Newmerzhycky having suffered a stroke he said was brought on by the stressful situation. Elaborating further, Newmerzhycky explained:
“They took everything that I owned at that point in my life. My game was just starting to get on point and we decided to take that road trip.. Those Iowa cops pretty much put an end to [my poker playing career] 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 a while because I couldn’t pay my mortgage. I had to rent out my home.”
In the meantime, Iowa law enforcement has announced that it would be disbanding its forfeiture team, although the Iowa Attorney General’s office failed to confirm that the two decisions were connected. Critics of the scheme, however, point to the fact that a broadening of its powers over the past three decades had led to abuse of the system, as well as possible constitutional violations.