2 Oct 2014

Iowa Troopers Steal $100,000 in Poker Winnings From Two Players Driving Through the State

The Des Moines Register highlights an Iowa forfeiture case, the subject of a federal lawsuit filed this week, in which state troopers took $100,000 in winnings from two California poker players traveling through the state on their way back from a World Series of Poker event in Joliet, Illinois.  
Cops can always find an excuse to stop you. On the morning of April 15, 2013, Trooper Justin Simmons, who is part of an "interdiction team" that looks for contraband and money to seize, pulled over William Davis and John Newmer­zhycky, who were traveling west on Interstate 80 in a rental car, a red Nissan Altima. Simmons later said he had received a vague tip from "an Illinois law enforcement officer" to be on the lookout for a red car, but he did not know why. Obviously that did not rise to the level of reasonable suspicion, which Simmons needed to stop the car. So instead he claimed that he pulled Davis and Newmer­zhycky over because Newmer­zhycky, who was driving, failed to signal as he passed a black SUV. But as can be seen in the video recorded by Simmons' dashcam (starting around the 00:28 mark), Newmer­zhycky did signal. In the absence of such contrary evidence, cops are free to invent minor traffic infractions to justify a stop they want to conduct for other reasons. Although it does not condone such prevarication, the Supreme Court has said any valid legal reason makes a stop constitutional, even if it's a pretext for a more ambitious investigation. The Register reports that its "review of 22,000 warnings and citations given by the [interdiction] teams from 2008 to 2012 showed that 86 percent went to non-Iowans." Because Iowans are much better drivers, of course.
Cops can extend a traffic stop after issuing a citation or a warning, provided the motorist "consents." Around the 1:27 mark in the video at the top of the Register's story, after Simmons has ostensibly concluded his business and sent Newmerzhycky on his way, he pulls a Columbo, engaging Newmerzhycky in a conversation-cum-interrogation about the real object of the stop. "Hey, John?" he says as Newmerzhycky starts returning to his car. "Do you have time for a couple of questions? Do you have something illegal in the car?" Things quickly go downhill from there. Newmerzhycky denies having drugs or large amounts of cash. Simmons asks for permission to search the car. Newmerzhycky says no. Simmons asks if it's OK to bring a police dog by for a sniff. "I'd prefer to be on my way," Newmerzhycky says. Simmons asks again. "Do I have the right to say no to that?" Newmerzhycky asks. He does, since he is officially free to go at this point. Simmons answers the legal question honestly, and Newmerzhycky reiterates his desire to be on his way.
A dog sniff is not a search, but it can justify a search. Refusing to take no for an answer, Simmons says Newmerzhycky seems nervous (who wouldn't be in these circumstances?), and he uses that observation as justification for calling Trooper Eric VanderWiel, a K-9 officer with a drug-detecting dog. That move is highly suspect, since the Supreme Court has said police may not forcibly extend a routine traffic stop merely to wait for a drug-sniffing dog. At the same time, the Court says an olfactory inspection by a canine is not a search and can be conducted at will, without any evidence of criminal activity, provided a traffic stop is not "unnecessarily prolonged." VanderWiel's dog supposedly alerted to the back of the car, at a point where the dog was conveniently hidden from the dashcam. In practice, such an assertion gives cops a license to search any car they want, since "a court can presume" a police dog's alert by itself provides probable cause unless the defendant proves the animal is unreliable.
Cash is inherently suspicious. The troopers found $85,000 inside Davis' locked briefcase, plus another $15,000 in Newmerzhycky's computer bag, where they also found a grinder with bits of marijuana in it, which resulted in a citation for possession of drug paraphernalia—the only Iowa charge brought against either man. (Both bags were in the trunk, so maybe the dog really did smell contraband—or maybe she is trained to smell cash.) Naturally, Newmerzhycky's denial that he was carrying a lot of currency counted as evidence that he was up to no good, although it is not hard to see why an innocent person might lie in this situation, especially given how things turned out. But the truth is that police automatically assume large sums of cash must be related to drug trafficking or other criminal activity. They have a strong incentive to do so, since they get to keep the money. In Iowa law enforcement agencies receive 100 percent of the proceeds from civil forfeitures they initiate. From 2011 through 2013, the Register reports, Iowa's interdiction teams seized about $7 million in cash from motorists.


  1. ...one day people are going to simply start following these fascist pigs back to their offices...and shoot them dead...regardless of the judicial outcomes...when stealing and abuse is that blatantly outright...eventually someone isn't going to give a shit...and they will kill everyone involved..just to make a point....that will be a good day in the restoration of what America is supposed to be about...and the Bill of Rights...
    RJ O'Guillory
    Webster Groves - The Life of an Insane Family

  2. "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers,
    and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
    violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,
    supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place
    to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

  3. Was he driving the new ATM roadster?

  4. Police in uniform are wearing gang colors and will steal anything they want from you or maybe just kill you. Want more of it? Leave the police on the street. Want it stop? Disband the police and learn to provide for your own protection. Most of the laws being so called enforced by the gang are just revenue generation programs anyway. We do not need them. Or want them. So get rid of them. And ignore all the scarey excuses they will give why you need them. And ignore the crimes they themselves will commit to make people afraid and want them back. They will do it. But you do not need them, remember that. And please do not be dumb enough to call them.

  5. Another theft by the gang with a union. This what this country has turned into, a haven for Highwaymen as they were called back in the day of Robin Hood. Unfortunately these robbers keep all the money so the can go rob more innocent people.

  6. This cop is not only a thug, but a piece of human excrement, money is not incriminating, and there are several rights issue here as Pax so elegantly put it. Bet if bill puke gates was driving through or some rich person or stinking piece of scumbag politician and had more then that, they would not have lost their money and or been charged. And RJ O'guillory is also right that is exactly whats going to happen, they will mess with the wrong man one day, he will find out where they reside and take his justice his way. For not only are many cops corrupt, the entire system including the court system is so evil a man cannot expect anything but injustice. However lets say some guy did that and took his justice by kicking the crap out of the thug, and or killed him, they would slant the story using the press to make it out to be something other then it was and only the man will know and get satisfaction. One day very soon the shtf and these kinds of cops will be running like little sissys and scared rabbits when the hand that feeds them starts to fight back. They will toss their uniform and deny they are even a cop.