U.S. Eighth Circuit - The FindLaw 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Government Gives Up Fight For Stripper's $1M, But Why?

The California stripper who had $1 million seized by a Nebraska state trooper during a traffic stop will get to keep her mega moola. On Tuesday, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the U.S. Attorney's Office in Omaha's motion to dismiss its own appeal of a federal judge's order to return the $1 million (plus interest!) to the exotic dancer, Tara Mishra.

Why did the government give up the fight? It's anyone's guess, as the government is keeping mum.

Let the conspiracy theories begin!

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John Higgins with the U.S. Attorney's Office said the dismissal request was "an internal decision which I am not at liberty to address," reports The Associated Press. The motion itself was only one sentence and was similarly silent on the reason behind the dismissal request.

But Roger Diamond, the Mishra's attorney, thinks he has an idea of why the government dropped the case. He believes the Feds were concerned that if the Eighth Circuit had upheld the lower court's decision, the case would have set a legal precedent in property seizure cases, making it harder for the government to seize property through civil forfeiture laws, reports The AP.

Civil Forfeiture Laws

Generally, money and property can be forfeited by a rightful owner to the government if that money was being used in illegal activities. To make its case, the government has the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence (the standard used in most civil cases), that the money or property had a substantial connection to an illegal activity.

That lower standard of proof, Diamond says, gives law enforcement free reign to "arbitrarily stop vehicles and ask if they can have permission to search the vehicle. If they find money, they can take it," reports The AP. The attorney, who clearly has a flair for the dramatic, likened the practice to "highway robbery."

But in this case, The Law couldn't take off with Mishra's cash like bandits in the night after the lower court ruled the government failed to prove the stripper's cash had a substantial connection to drug trafficking.

Keep Guessing

Was the government afraid of the burden of proof changing? Or is this just a conspiracy theory spun by the plaintiff's attorney who is on a "Yeah, government, you best be scared of me"-ego-trip on the heels of a big win? In all likelihood, it's the latter. The government had a weak case. But then again, you never know. That's the fun of conspiracy theories!

Regardless of what prompted the decision, now that the government has given up its claim to the money, they will return the $1 million to Mishra within about a week.

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