National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Lawsuit Claims Sheriff’s Deputies Filed False and Misleading Search Warrant Applications, Then Seized Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars

From the Daily Press:

After the Newport News Sheriff’s Office seized hundreds of thousands of dollars from Jayson Mickle and several of his companies last summer, the tobacco shop owner says he didn’t initially have the cash to pay his workers….

Earlier this month, [Mickle] sued Newport News Sheriff Gabe Morgan and eight of his sheriff’s deputies in U.S. District Court in Newport News. He contends the deputies ran roughshod over his rights and that the searches and seizures–of the cash and the store product–were illegal.

The searches and seizures were illegal, Mickle’s suit contends, because deputies included false or misleading statements on affidavits that were submitted to judicial system magistrates in order to get them to sign off on search warrants. Warrants were then issued to search stores and residences, and to confiscate money.

Several of those affidavits, the suit said, stated as a fact that deputies had earlier seized synthetic marijuana from Mickle’s properties. But in fact, the suit says, at the time of those statements the seized product had either not yet been sent to the state lab or the tests had not been performed.

And when the seized product later came back from the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, nearly all the products came back as negative for synthetic marijuana listed in Virginia law.

In several cases, however, the tests came back saying that the product appeared to be synthetic marijuana, but it wasn’t on the state’s list of banned chemicals. “No controlled substances listed in (state law) were identified,” the lab said in several cases. “An unlisted synthetic cannabinoid was indicated but not identified.”

The suit claims that only one package–found in a “dusty suitcase” in a warehouse–tested positive for synthetic marijuana. Mickle said that package was not for sale and was picked up at a trade show in August 2010, well before the new state law went into effect….

Mickle said that he can’t control things “as far as what people are doing” with the product once it’s sold. He said he won’t sell the product to someone who indicates they will smoke it. “But other than that, we can’t not sell the product to someone who wants to buy it legally.”

Gray Broughton, Mickle’s lawyer with the firm of Williams Mullen, said of his client: “He is an entrepreneur, who has started up and is running a number of businesses. He has done everything he could along the way to make sure the goods and services he provides are legal.”

Broughton pointed out that no criminal charges have been filed against Mickle as a result of the sheriff’s investigation. “It’s not some seedy drug-dealing operation under the cover of darkness,” he said. “He’s opened these businesses openly, legally and honestly and doing his best to make sure they succeed.”