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Court gives man chance to prove seized $1M is his

By Ken Ritter

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:11 p.m. HST, Dec 11, 2012

LAS VEGAS >> A British Columbia man is getting another chance to prove he is the legal owner of nearly $1 million that Nevada state troopers seized from his rental car during an August 2008 traffic stop near Las Vegas.

Three 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges ruled Monday that U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson in Las Vegas improperly used a possession standard instead of determining ownership before denying Michael Simard's claim to the $999,830.

The Nevada Highway Patrol said the money was in a duffel bag in the trunk of the rental car Simard was driving from St. Louis to Las Vegas.

"Bags aren't mine. Money isn't mine," Simard wrote on a statement that troopers accepted before confiscating the money and letting him drive away with a warning about speeding. Troopers had clocked him going 79 mph in a 75 mph zone.

"A lot of times, people disclaim ownership at the scene of a stop because police say they can leave," Simard's California-based attorney, Ronald Richards, said Tuesday.

But Simard later submitted a sworn declaration that the money — just $170 short of $1 million — belonged to him. The appeals court panel ruled that such an "unequivocal assertion of ownership" should have prompted a more thorough hearing by Dawson.

Court documents say Simard had a Canadian driver's license and gave a trooper who stopped him on Interstate 15 permission to search the vehicle. Police noted that Simard had a one-way car rental, seemed nervous and gave various accounts about whom he would be meeting and where he would be staying. He had few clothes or belongings with him for what he said was a long cross-country trip.

Troopers summoned a drug-sniffing dog but found no contraband in the vehicle.

Federal prosecutors filed documents in January 2009 seeking to keep the cash. They asserted, based on the troopers' impressions, that Simard must have been involved in the drug trade.

"They don't have any evidence of that. None," Roberts said in response to the alleged drug connection. "The only thing they have is money in a car."

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden didn't immediately say Tuesday whether prosecutors will continue to seek the money. No court hearing was scheduled.

The Las Vegas Sun first reported the appellate court ruling.

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Mythman wrote:
This really is egregious - no crime proven, only well, obviously he is doing something wrong because we think he is doing something wrong.......give the man back his money, now....
on December 11,2012 | 02:11PM
HAL9000 wrote:
This country has gone to the dogs. Why would anyone take this guys cash. It is not the governments business as to how or why he has that cash. It is not theirs. It is in his car, it is his. Nazi pigs taking his cash, then making him prove that it is his. The cops are the thieves. This country is already the Nazis clone we fought in WW2.
on December 11,2012 | 03:40PM
manapua19 wrote:
The main issue is that he said in a signed written statement that it WASNT his bags or money. Now his lawyer trying to say that people disclaim ownership just so they can leave. If thats my money, and I earned it legitimately, i dont care how long id have to wait. Theres absolutely positively no way id just give up a million dollars cash sitting in my trunk.
on December 11,2012 | 04:05PM
HD36 wrote:
State's are trying any way they can to raise revenue.
on December 11,2012 | 06:06PM
bullturd wrote:
Really...stopped him doing 79 mph in a 75 mph speed limit....Really...and to assume it was Drug money...Really...
on December 11,2012 | 06:59PM
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