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United States v. Turner

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division

August 30, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
DWAYNE LAMONT TURNER

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          W. KEITH WATKINS CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On June 7, 2017, Defendant Dwayne Lamont Turner entered a plea of guilty to a charge of conspiracy with intent to distribute and possess with the intent of distributing 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine.[1] Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 853, the Government seeks forfeiture of the following property included in Forfeiture Allegation 1 of the superseding indictment (Doc. # 130 at 3-4):

(1) a 2008 Maserati Gran Turismo seized from Turner;
(2) $123, 865 in U.S. currency seized from Turner;
(3) $6, 000 in U.S. currency seized from Turner; and
(4) a Springfield Armory, XD-40, .40 caliber pistol seized from Turner.

         On August 15, 2017, pursuant to the Government's request, a forfeiture hearing was held. At the hearing, Defendant Turner, who was present, did not contest forfeiture of the $6, 000 in cash, the Maserati, or the pistol. However, Turner contended that the $123, 865 in cash is not subject to forfeiture because, he alleged, he received that money not as proceeds of a drug transaction, but from an inheritance and/or life insurance policy following the death of his father.

         I. APPLICABLE LAW

         21 U.S.C. § 853(a) provides that property subject to forfeiture includes “any of the [convicted defendant's] property used, or intended to be used, in any manner or part, to commit, or to facilitate the commission of” a violation of various drug control laws, including 21 U.S.C. § 841, the statute underlying to charge to which Turner entered a guilty plea.

         “As soon as practical after a . . . finding of guilty . . . on any count in an indictment or information regarding which criminal forfeiture is sought, the court must determine what property is subject to forfeiture under the applicable statute.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 32.2(b)(1)(A). “If the government seeks forfeiture of specific property, the court must determine whether the government has established the requisite nexus between the property and the offense.” Id. The nexus may be established by a preponderance of the evidence. United States v. Dicter, 198 F.3d 1284, 1289 (11th Cir. 1999).

         II. FACTS

         For the $123, 865 in cash recovered from the Maserati to be subject to forfeiture, the government must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the cash was “used, or intended to be used, in any manner or part, to commit, or to facilitate the commission of, ” the drug activity in this case. 21 U.S.C. § 853(a)(2). All of the evidence of record and all evidence presented at the hearing, including Turner's own August 14, 2017 hearing testimony, demonstrate that Turner intended to use the $123, 865 to commit or facilitate the drug conspiracy at issue in this case. At the hearing, Turner stated that he placed the $123, 865 in cash in his Maserati and drove the Maserati to meet[2] with his drug supplier. Turner testified that he went to the meeting to seek an extension on a $124, 000 drug debt he owed to the drug supplier, but he intended to use $123, 865 in cash to pay for the drugs if the drug supplier threatened his life for nonpayment.

         In addition to Turner's own testimony, other evidence presented at the hearing confirmed that Turner took the $123, 865 in cash to the meeting because he owed the drug debt and to facilitate the drug conspiracy. For example, a text message from Turner to his supplier on the day of the meeting stated: “I got 124K and I owe you 2k, make sure you send that other with the next white.” (Doc. # 1, Criminal Comp. ¶ 10.)[3] Agent Karl Oroz testified that Turner stated in a recorded conversation that he was on his way to the meeting with the drug dealer to deliver the money. No evidence suggests that Turner had any reason other than furtherance of the drug conspiracy to take the $123, 865 in cash to the meeting with the drug supplier, even if he only intended to hand the money over to the drug supplier as a last resort.

         III. ...


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