April 26, 2016
(ANTIMEDIA) Muskogee County, Oklahoma – Eh Wah is a refugee from Burma who became a citizen of the United States more than a decade ago. Today, the 40-year-old resides in Dallas, Texas, where he regularly attends church and helps out as a volunteer manager for a Christian rock band from Burma, Klo & Kweh Music Team.
The group has been touring all over the United States in order to raise money for a Christian college in Burma and an orphanage in Thailand, but recently hit a setback when Eh was pulled over by a cop on his way back home to Texas to see his family. He had been on the road with the band for 19 concerts.
Eh, who is in charge of keeping up with all the money raised from the band’s merchandise and album sales, as well as donations received, had $53,249 on him when was pulled over in Muskogee County, Oklahoma for a busted taillight. And because Eh’s first language isn’t English, the officers had a difficult time understanding the explanation he provided, even when they interrogated the man for hours back at the police station.
“I just couldn’t believe it. An officer was telling me that ‘you are going to jail tonight.’ And I don’t know what to think. What did I do that would make me go to jail? I didn’t do anything. Why is he saying that?” he said.
As the Washington Post reported:
“Eh Wah even had the officers call one of the band’s leaders, Saw Marvellous Soe, who was living in Miami while the band was on a break. ‘The police officer started asking questions,’ Marvellous recalled. ‘I explained: ‘We are a music team. We came here for a tour.”‘ Marvellous tried to explain that the band was from Burma. ‘He kept telling me, “You are wrong, you are wrong,”‘ Marvellous said. ‘Everything I said, [he said,] “You are wrong.” I said: “We are doing a good thing! And now you are accusing us of being like a drug dealer or something like that.”’”
“I realized that they were seizing all of the money. I was like, ‘This can’t be happening.’ But I didn’t know what to do,” Eh said.
Although the property receipt states Eh was brought in for possession of drug proceeds, he was released that night — but five weeks later was charged with a felony for “acquir[ing] proceeds from drug activity.” It is worth noting that absolutely no weapons or drugs were found in Eh’s possession, despite a drug-sniffing dog extensively searching the vehicle for illegal paraphernalia or items.
The officers’ theft of the money earmarked for the orphanage and college is called asset forfeiture and is perfectly legal in Oklahoma, a state that does not require any conviction whatsoever for police to remain in possession of 100% of all property confiscated from citizens.
Having taken Eh’s case on pro bono, the Institute for Justice had the criminal and civil charges against him thrown out on Monday afternoon after his case was reviewed by Muskogee County District Attorney Orvil Loge. After his decision, the District Attorney said, “I looked at the case and met with the officers, and determined that we would not be able to meet the burden of proof in the criminal case and in the civil case.” A check will be sent to Eh’s lawyers for the full amount taken from him, according to Loge.
The Institute for Justice says that despite the ultimately positive outcome in Eh Wah’s case, his is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the injustice of civil asset forfeiture laws in the United States.
Nevermind that it should have never been allowed to happen in the first place.
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