A San Diego family took the District Attorney’s office to court this week in the continued fight to get their seized money back after a raid at a medical marijuana distribution company.
In January, law enforcement officers raided Med-West Distribution, a former medical marijuana company - before authorities seized everything, including $100,000 from the family’s bank accounts.
“I haven't been arrested, I haven't been charged. And I didn't do anything wrong, by the way,” said the company's former CEO James Slatic in early November.
Now, nearly ten months after the raid, the District Attorney’s office tells NBC 7 they believe James Slatic was manufacturing concentrated cannabis and then transferring the revenue into his family's bank accounts.
“This case was never about policing, it was about policing for profit,” attorney Wesley Hottot said outside of the courthouse Tuesday. “It was a cash grab from an innocent family and the money has to be returned.”
Hottot is an attorney with the non-profit law firm Institute for Justice and is representing the Slatic family.
“It is crazy," Hottot said. "It's the dirty little secret of the American justice system. It’s called civil asset forfeiture.”
In October, he filed a motion for the return of the Slatic’s money from their personal bank accounts.
Tanya Sierra with the D.A.’s office explained in a statement to NBC 7 San Diego the idea behind the civil asset forfeiture.
“The primary mission of the asset forfeiture program is to enhance public safety by removing the proceeds of crime and other assets relied upon by criminals to perpetuate their criminal activity. The San Diego County District Attorney's Office follows nationwide policies, procedures and guidelines set up by the Department of Justice regarding the seizure and spending of asset forfeiture funds," the statement read.
But Hottot says the civil forfeiture laws are “broken."
“This case just illustrates that when police can disregard crime fighting and go after money instead then were all in danger," Hottot said. "They should be out on the street looking for criminals to put away in jail, not looking for cash to take away from people.”
Sierra says the investigation is ongoing and the case remains under review for potential criminal charges, adding that "a neutral judge found probable cause that Mr. Slatic's wife's and his daughters' assets are all tainted by criminal conduct.”
Sierra also says the D.A.’s office “has yet to see a license or a permit for Slatic’s business to conduct a marijuana lab or a marijuana dispensary, as required by the San Diego Municipal Code.”
City and state Judge Bloom is taking all of this into consideration and will submit a written ruling in the near future.
In the meantime, Mr. Slatic has not filed a asset forfeiture claim to have his personal funds returned. The DA’s Office has also not filed an asset forfeiture petition.
Mr. Slatic’s attorneys filed a motion to have his computer equipment sealed, citing the existence of documents on the devices that may be covered by attorney-client privilege. This had the unfortunate effect of halting some parts of the investigation and slowing down the overall investigation considerably, he said, and had they not filed this motion, the investigation would likely have been much further along at this point.
Hottot says it could be days or even weeks before the judge makes a decision whether the Slatic family will get their money back.