A Bay Area attorney said Wednesday that he plans to file three suits against the California Highway Patrol following a traffic stop that led to the seizure of $230,000.
Attorney Matthew Kumin is representing Brian Clemann and Richard Barry of Crescent City, and their company Wild Rivers Transport, after the two were stopped by CHP on Interstate 5 Sept. 6.
“During the course of the stop, the two male occupants of the Chevrolet identified themselves as retired peace officers,” a CHP release states, noting the driver was issued a citation.
Kumin said the truck was stopped for “a mudflap violation which didn’t really exist.”
According to the CHP report, the same CHP officer saw the same pickup commit another violation and a second officer was requested.
Asked for the probable cause behind the second stop, Kumin said the CHP officer “came running over to the truck and said, ‘You told me you’d resigned. You were fired.’”
A reason for the second stop was not listed in the release.
The CHP report said concealed guns and bags of money were found inside the truck, and due to contradicting statements, the two occupants were taken into custody and transported to Merced CHP Office to be investigated by task force officers.
“There’s a certain culture in the CHP at play here,” Kumin said, alleging someone told the officer about his clients’ background. Kumin said CHP officers maintain a sense of brotherhood and dislike any officers they feel have gone outside the law.
“It’s how they operate. Somebody told (the officer) that these guys were dirty cops and said ‘go get them.’”
Kumin said officers used bolt cutters to open a small safe inside the truck, where they found $230,000 that was received during a recent legal delivery.
Kumin said his clients did not have the combination to the safe so a police K9 was brought to the scene. He said the dog alerted on the safe for marijuana, which was to be expected since his clients are licensed cannabis transporters.
Kumin said CHP then called in an officer from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, who seized the currency.
“We still don’t know the probable cause for the second stop,” Kumin said.
DHS receipts for the seizure did not list an exact amount of currency, saying only “unknown amount of currency — $100,000.”
Asked if the money was counted at the scene, Kumin said officers told his clients, “We’ll count it later.”
The CHP release said the case was submitted to the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office. DA’s Information Officer John Gould said neither client has a court date set.
“There was no criminal case filed,” Kumin said. “My clients were arrested, held for seven hours unbooked and then released.”
Suits to be filed
Kumin said he plans to file three suits against the CHP. The first will be forfeiture action for the return of the $230,000, he said.
He said the second will be a civil rights case that claims the truck was illegally stopped, his clients’ reputation and that of their company was damaged, and that CHP Commander Larry Depee slandered his clients.
“This is the beginning of a deep inquiry into CHP corruption,” Kumin said. “They made a big mistake and it’s going to cost them.”
He said the third will be a class action suit seeking an injunction to keep CHP from turning over assets to federal agencies in order to circumvent Section 26032 of SB94. The section mandates that no state-licensed cannabis business businessperson or employee “be an offense subject to arrest, prosecution, or other sanction under state law, or be subject to a civil fine or be a basis for seizure or forfeiture of assets under state law.”
Kumin said while there’s a compelling story about ex-officers being arrested, he feels the real story is how a state law enforcement agency is using federal personnel to thwart state law.
Kumin said U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher has been notified of the incident and predicted that it will have reverberations all the way to Washington D.C.
Kumin said the case could also have statewide repercussions, as it appears to be the first seizure of property from a state-licensed cannabis business.
“People are terrified to take their stuff out on the highway,” he said. “Even after all these years, they’ll still take it away.”
A history with CHP
Speaking for his clients, Kumin said Barry was fired from the CHP after disclosing that he had taken unprescribed Norco for pain while on patrol. Kumin said Barry appealed the termination, was reinstated as an officer and resigned some time later.
Kumin said Clemann was fired for insubordination after taking his attorney’s advice not to speak to CHP officials during an investigation into charges that he stole items from a CHP evidence room. Kumin said the jury could not come to a verdict, making Clemann not guilty of the charges.
“We want to be open about everything,” Kumin said. “We don’t want the Department of Justice involved when people are operating in compliance with state law.”
Kumin asserted state law says licensed cannabis distributors are not subject to arrest, and that his clients have a license from Eureka to operate their business.