By Conrad Dudderar
A non-jury trial is expected to be set this fall in a cash forfeiture case filed in Canadian County District Court.
Attorneys for two Albuquerque, N.M. men and the District Attorney’s Office met in District Judge Jack D. McCurdy’s chambers July 23 on a motion to enter the matter on the non-jury docket.
A pre-trial conference is set for 1:30 p.m. Oct. 20. The date for a trial before the judge will be determined then, court officials said.
New Mexico’s Weichuan Liu and Nang Thai are challenging the District Attorney’s application to seize $131,500 in U.S. currency. The funds were confiscated April 19 by a Canadian County sheriff’s deputy after a traffic stop in El Reno.
Liu and Thai had driven to Oklahoma and reportedly had planned to use the funds to buy and upgrade property in Caddo County.
A notice of intended forfeiture was filed April 22 by Assistant District Attorney Mitchell Thrower, representing DA Michael J. Fields. The petitioner asserts the funds were being used or could be traced to an illegal drug transaction.
In an answer submitted by their attorney Richard W. Anderson, the claimants state the currency was “unlawful seized” and taken from them in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article II Section 30 of the Oklahoma Constitution.
In their court-filed response, the claimants deny the DA’s allegations that the currency:
• Was furnished or intended to be furnished in exchange for a controlled dangerous or is traceable to such an exchange;
• Were monies that were used, or intended to be used, to facilitate a violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act;
• Is a thing of value that was acquired during a period of one or more violations of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, or within a reasonable time after such period.
Liu and Thai also claim the seizure and continual refusal to return the currency will cause them to suffer economic loss “for which they should be compensated.”
“The actual amount of currency seized is $141,500 in United States currency and that amount of money is demanded to be returned in addition to other relief sought.”
Representatives of the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office did not want to comment on the case since the litigation is pending.