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N4T Investigators: Police seize weapons in civil asset forfeitur - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Police seize weapons in civil asset forfeiture case

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What happens when you're not charged with a crime but police take your belongings while doing their job? It's called civil asset forfeiture. It's a tool used by law enforcement to take criminal proceeds. But in at least one case, the person didn't commit a crime.

"Oh Lord, they took so much stuff," said Thomas Crouch as he walked through his home. "Just everything. Pistols, computers, cables, just so much. It's too much to list."

Police also seized Crouch's home.

According to court documents, police took his home, surveillance cameras, laptops, cellphones, a digital scale, an air conditioner, and three pistols.

"I had to go through a lawyer. They wanted $30,000 to get the property back. That was the deal they wanted to make," Crouch said. "That's when I hired a lawyer.

Ultimately, Crouch settled but as part of the agreement with the Pima County Attorney's Office, he agreed to surrender three handguns.

"In both the criminal case as well as the civil forfeiture case, what the county alleged is that the weapons were there to further the drug offenses that were going on which is a felony in the state of Arizona," said Kellie Johnson, chief criminal deputy of the county attorney's office.

She said Crouch agreed to the settlement in January 2014.

"He chose to settle that claim upon advice of counsel. He was represented by an attorney and agreed to the terms of the settlement. Had he wanted to, would have had the opportunity to fight that in court and prevailed on his claim," Johnson said.

Crouch says it was just growing too expensive to keep fighting. Scott Ewing represented Crouch in the settlement.

"There's a system that creates these incentives for police officers and for the county attorney to pursue these forfeiture actions because they're going to get the money in the end," Ewing said.

As for Crouch, he has the house and laptops back, but lost the guns and the surveillance cameras.

"I had to sign in a plea agreement to turn them over the Tucson Police Department for whatever they used them for," he said.

If you have a tip for the news 4 Tucson Investigators, email investigators@kvoa.com or call 955-4444.

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