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Muskogee DA drops 53k civil forfeiture case

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Posted at 3:23 PM, Apr 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-25 21:43:50-04

MUSKOGEE, Okla. - The District Attorney in Muskogee has dropped a civil forfeiture case against a Christian orphanage, church and band from Burma and Thailand after obtaining $53,000 during a traffic stop.

On February 27th,  a Muskogee Sheriff's deputy pulled over the tour manager, Eh Wah, for the Klo & Kweh Music Team for a broken brake light.

According to the Institute for Justice, during the stop a deputy searched the car and found more than $53,000 in cash that was allegedly raised from concert sales for an orphanage in Burma.

No drugs were found, but according to deputies, a drug dog was alerted to the vehicle.

"I told the band right away that night why I was at the station," Wah said. "And when they learned about it, they couldn't believe something like this would happen to them... [or] something like this would happen in the U.S."

The driver was released after being questioned by Muskogee deputies. The department kept the cash as supposed drug proceeds.

Two weeks later, the Muskogee DA's Office issued an arrest warrant for Wah, who then drove from Dallas, Texas to turn himself in.

"I had to pay $400 bond for a crime I didn't commit," Wah said.

Institute for Justice Attorney, Dan Alban, said Oklahoma's forfeiture laws are some of the worst in the country.

"Our policing for profit report gave them a D minus," Alban said.

He says unlike criminal law, where someone is presumed innocent until proven guilty, Oklahoma forfeiture law makes a person prove their own innocence.

After Wah fought for his, Alband said Justice was finally served.

"At any time during the case, If I ever think that I am unable to met my burden of proof, then it requires me to act," Orvil Loge, Muskogee District Attorney said. "Today I looked at the cases and looked at the evidence, met with officers, and concluded that I would not be able to meet my burden of proof in either case, so I dismissed both of them."

The Institute for Justice said this is the fastest case it has ever won.

It took exactly a week after the Institute announced it was representing the man accused.

All of the money was returned to the rightful owners and will be distributed back to the band, the orphanage and the church.

The Institute said this case shows that civil forfeiture laws are unjust.

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