Police Accountability Report: Episode 129 – LRN.fm
This week, a couple stories that should cause anyone critically thinking to see that those wearing badges aren’t always operating with the best intentions.
Deputy Accused of Illegal Stops
A rural Nevada sheriff’s deputy, Lee Dove, is accused of stopping travelers on a lonely stretch of U.S. Interstate 80 and confiscating tens of thousands of dollars for the county without bringing charges, according to two federal lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Reno.
Two men who were traveling alone through northern Nevada’s high desert last year offer strikingly similar accounts of their stops by the same Humboldt County deputy near the town of Winnemucca, about 165 miles east of Reno.
Neither search produced drugs or an arrest, but in one case Deputy Lee Dove took a briefcase filled with $50,000 and in the other he seized $13,800 and a handgun. Both men said they were told they’d be released with their vehicles only if they forfeited their cash.
The lawsuits say the cash seizures are part of a pattern of stopping drivers for speeding as a pretext for drug busts, which violates the Constitution. They maintain Dove, Sheriff Ed Kilgore, Humboldt County and its prosecutors condone the practice of seizing assets regardless of criminal prosecution.
County officials were not shy in the past about discussing their cash seizures. The day after Nguyen had his money taken, the sheriff issued a news release with a photograph of Dove pictured with a K-9 and $50,000 in seized cash “after a traffic stop for speeding.”
“This cash would have been used to purchase illegal drugs and now will benefit Humboldt County with training and equipment. Great job,” the statement said.
Nguyen’s suit says Dove stopped him September 23rd for driving 78 mph in a 75 zone in what his lawyers described as a “profile stop” based on suspicion he was transporting drugs in a rental car picked up at the Denver airport.
Dove wrote in his report Nguyen agreed to a search before opening the briefcase with the $50,000 in cash. Nguyen denies that he consented.
Nguyen told Dove he won the money at a casino on the way to visit his cousins in California, but Dove told Nguyen he suspected the money was obtained illegally. Dove reportedly smelled marijuana but didn’t find any.
Nguyen was given a written warning for speeding but wasn’t cited.
As a condition of release, Nguyen signed a “property for safekeeping receipt,” which indicated the money was abandoned or seized and not returnable. The lawsuit says he did so only because Dove threatened to seize his vehicle unless he “got in his car and drove off and forgot this ever happened.”
Ex Cop Sentenced in Grand Forks Gun Incident
In other news, Former Grand Forks police officer charged with holding his handgun to the head of a party guest in his home was sentenced to 100 hours of community service.
State District Judge Sonja Clapp also deferred imposition of Jace Prelip’s sentence, meaning if he completes a year of probation, the charge will be taken off the books.
Prelip originally faced a felony charge of terrorizing after a booze-soaked party in his home in August 2012 that would have put him in prison for at least two years; he was acquitted on that charge but convicted on a minor misdemeanor of disorderly conduct.
The incident happened after hours of drinking by Prelip and several other local law enforcement officers. His victim, at the time a UND student, said he feared for his life but was afraid to say anything among the group of officers.
Prelip argued at his trial in December that it clearly was a joke, the gun was not loaded and nobody took it seriously as a threat, including the victim at the time.
Prelip quit shortly after the incident and is now working in the public school district.
That’s this week’s Police Accountability Report brought to you by CopBlock.org.
Until next week, stay safe and remember that badges don’t grant extra rights.