A driver from Cedarburg who got pulled over in 2009 near Lincoln, Neb., lost $48,100 after state troopers there seized it as suspected drug money, but a federal appeals court now says the government had no real grounds to keep the cash.
“Their only evidence was theoretical and conjectural,” said Patrick Brennan, the Milwaukee attorney who argued for the money’s return. He was unsuccessful at a 2012 trial before prevailing on appeal on Friday when the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s decision
in the government’s favor . . .
The appeals court ordered the money returned, a fairly unusual result when citizens challenge large cash forfeitures.
The driver, John Nelson, was 22 when he set out from Cedarburg for Colorado in 2009. He was planning to move there, so he took his family’s RV, large enough to accommodate Nelson’s two dogs, to save him the cost of hotels.
He also took along, in a small safe, all his important personal papers to set up residency. And nearly $50,000 in cash. He said the money was the result of selling bonds his grandmother had given him.
Nelson stayed with friends in Denver a few weeks but learned the city restricts ownership of pit bulls, the breed of one of Nelson’s dogs. So he headed back to Wisconsin in October.