Pubdate: Wed, 14 Nov 2007
Source: Morganton News Herald, The (NC)
Copyright: 2007 Media General Inc.
Author: Scott Robertson
Bookmark: (Asset Forfeiture)
Bookmark: (Marijuana)


Connelly Springs - A Burke County man may have his home seized by the
federal government, according to authorities.

The man, Darrell Lail, of 4140 Huffman Mountain Road, spoke to
reporters through a partially-opened door Wednesday.

While there are no criminal charges against Lail, in a civil suit, the
U.S. Department of Justice claims marijuana has been repeatedly sold
from his home, which sits on five acres in Connelly Springs.

With television crews set up in his yard, Lail said, "You'll have to
excuse me, I'm pretty nervous right now."

Lail said he had hired a lawyer and will fight the seizure. "I've
worked hard since I was 14," Lail said. "I served our country in the
military and now they want to take my house."

Lail said he would not comment further due to advice from his
attorney. Gretchen Shappert, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of
North Carolina, announced that the government is filling the federal
civil suit seeking property forfeiture of Lail's house.

In civil forfeiture cases, Shappert said, the house itself is named as
the defendant even if there is no criminal indictment of the owner.
The basis for the forfeiture, Shappert said, is when a house is being
used in "on-going criminal activity," which the government claims is
the case. In October, the Burke County Narcotics Task Force served a
search warrant on the residence.

They said they found drug paraphernalia in the home. The government's
complaint documents five other incidents of drug activity at the home
since July.

In the U.S. Attorney's announcement, Shappert said, "The civil
forfeiture laws are a powerful weapon in the federal arsenal that is
sometimes overlooked.

Under federal law, any property that is substantially connected to
criminal activity can be forfeited to the government."

If the government wins the civil suit, it will then have discretion
over what to do with the property.

"The United States Attorney will continue to work closely with local
law enforcement agencies," Shappert said, "and to use this powerful
and effective weapon against crime, especially drug crime in the
Western District of North Carolina."

Two other cases have also been filed in western North Carolina,
according to Shappert. Asheville-based Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom
Ascik initiated the cases, Shappert said, that are designed to reduce
crime and improve the quality of life in affected neighborhoods.
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