Last year, we noted that the United States Department of Justice suspended distribution of federal asset forfeiture payments to the Alamance County (NC) Sheriff’s Office after a DOJ Civil Rights Division investigation found that the Sheriff’s Office engaged in pervasive discriminatory policing in violation of the United States Constitution and federal law—including an alleged pattern or practice of unlawful and unreasonable seizures targeting Latinos.
Incredibly, Alamance County Attorney Clyde B. Albright, is now claiming that withholding distribution of the funds on account of violating residents’ rights contravenes due process:
“It’s hurting us and it’s going to continue to hurt us,” [Sheriff Terry] Johnson said. “They are withholding it because of the DOJ lawsuit.”
The DOJ filed a lawsuit against Johnson last December over the charges of discrimination.
The forfeiture proceeds are not allowed by law to supplant the Sheriff’s Office general budget. They are used to buy equipment the Sheriff Office’s might need. Johnson said the county doesn’t have the available funds to offset the losses incurred from the frozen proceeds. The Sheriff’s Office received $342,759 in federal drug asset forfeiture proceeds in 2011-12.
County Attorney Clyde Albright said Tuesday he requested a hearing with the DOJ’s General Counsel in Washington D.C. to resolve the situation but hasn’t received a reply. Albright said the DOJ hasn’t provided the county a reason why it continues to withhold the drug forfeiture money and that the DOJ should follow due process in the case.
Alamance County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Randy Jones said he didn’t understand how the DOJ lawsuit and the frozen drug asset forfeiture proceeds were related and on what grounds the DOJ was withholding the proceeds. Chris Lavender, Sheriff wants DOJ to release drug forfeiture assets, The Times-News, 28 May, 2013.
Of course, the DOJ only enjoys possession of the funds because the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office gave the DOJ the money in hopes of using the DOJ’s equitable sharing program to circumvent North Carolina’s constitutional requirement that forfeitures go to education.