Two Nevada lawsuits have been settled with individuals who claimed a sheriff’s deputy had violated their rights, in separate incidents, when they were pulled over for speeding on Interstate 80. While on the side of the road, the men were searched for pills and required to give up tens of thousands of dollars. The deputy failed to find drugs and no charges were filed in either case.
Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming said in a comment that her office has begun an in-house review of the asset relinquishment program. She also declared that there was no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Sheriff Ed Kilgore or his deputies.
In 2013, Tan Nguyen of Newport, California, and Michael Lee of Denver were stopped along U.S. Interstate 80 close to Winnemucca. The deputy in both instances was veteran deputy, Lee Dove. Dove used the pretense of speeding to justify legal intervention and told the men their cars had to be searched. Deputy Dove also apparently told each man they wouldn’t be freed, with their transportation, unless they also gave up cash that was found during the search.
The suits alleged that Deputy Dove confiscated a briefcase containing $50,000 in bills from Nguyen when he stopped Nguyen for going three miles over the limit. Dove was accused of seizing almost $14,000 and a pistol from Lee during a comparable stop, three months later, in December.
Humboldt County’s attorney, Steve Balkenbush, told The Associated Press, “The case has been settled.”
A statement by the district attorney’s office said both were pulled over lawfully and that the assets taken were “lawfully seized.” The statement also recognized the determination of their rights that their cases did not get precedence in the district attorney’s office.
“The cases concerning Mr. Nguyen and Mr. Lee established issued in the District Attorney’s Office, and those issues are being discussed,” the report said.
Claiming that media stories about the suits were unfairly critical of the sheriff’s office, the statement claimed that the sheriff’s department had been “acting in accordance” with the law.
The lawsuits alleged the money seizures were part of a design of checking motorists for speeding as an excuse for drug busts which the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled are in violation of the Constitution.
The day after Nguyen had his money seized, the sheriff’s office issued a press release with a picture of Dove, and a K9, showing $50,000 seized in cash.
“This money would have been to buy illicit drugs and now will help Humboldt County,” the press release said.