The opinion of the court was delivered by: David O. Carter United States District Judge
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
The non-jury trial in this matter was held on September 22, 2010 before the Honorable Florence M. Cooper. After Judge Cooper's tragic passing, this matter was transferred to the docket of the Honorable David O. Carter.
At the conclusion of the one day bench trial, and after the parties submitted their evidence and argument for the Court's review, Judge Cooper instructed the parties as follows:
All right. I will prepare written findings and conclusions, parties are entitled to them, at the end of the court trial. But I will be entering a judgment in favor of the plaintiff.
I'm satisfied by a preponderance of the evidence that the funds in the defendant's possession were in fact proceeds from the sale of drugs.
The reasonableness of the assumptions made by the officers certainly ring very true. The testimony that the claimant effectively saved every dollar he had ever earned and the total chart here, that's what it reflects. Every paycheck was cashed and all of the cash was put in a safe. So this man never bought himself a cup of coffee for five years, did nothing but save all of his money.
The packaging of the money, the fact that there were so many bills of various denominations, it's inherently incredible to the court that anyone would purchase a truck that way.
Even the trip to Atlanta to purchase a truck makes absolutely no sense under the circumstances when one can purchase things on line, at least investigate on line, determine what's available, learn whether a truck manufactured in another state would satisfy California laws.
I'm just completely persuaded that the reasonable answer to this is that the claimant was in fact transporting drug proceeds and therefore I will enter a judgment of forfeiture in favor of the plaintiff. (See Dkt. 83, Transcript of Proceedings held on 09-22-09, at 153:1-154:2.)
In light of the obvious care attended to the issues by Judge Cooper, as well as the clear and considered enunciation of her conclusions to the parties at the September 22, 2010 trial, the Court makes its finding of fact and conclusions of law as follows:
1. On March 20, 2008, two Los Angeles Airport Task Force Officers approached Claimant James Wilson ("claimant") after concluding that claimant was engaging in suspicious behavior.
2. Upon searching a garment bag recovered by claimant from the baggage carousel at the airport, the two officers discovered several bundles of money concealed within the lining of a leather jacket. The defendant currency was packaged in the form of bills of ...