By Matthew Saari
The Washington County Board of supervisors voted Friday to give $64,611 in forfeited funds from legal cases to the District Attorney’s office, despite strong objections by Hartford supervisor Dana Haff.
Saying that he had “full faith that the Washington county sheriffs and the district attorney’s office are doing their jobs,” Haff added: “I just feel it’s unconstitutional.”
Of the three types of forfeiture – civil, criminal and administrative – Haff said he is primarily concerned with civil forfeiture.
“I don’t support civil forfeiture,” Haff said. “I call it the F-word – I don’t even like to say it.”
District attorney Tony Jordan explained the process in which these monies are obtained.
“They are monies forfeited by criminal defendants where they agree to forfeit assets, usually cash, that are obtained as a result of their criminal conduct,” he said.
Jordan added that “a connection has to be made” in order for assets to be seized.
Haff remained unconvinced.
“My concern is that commingled in this money is civil forfeiture funds,” Haff said, citing a recent news article that revealed civil forfeiture funds are often hidden among criminal forfeiture funds.
That’s how the board’s resolution defined the $64,611 going to the DA’s office.
The issue with civil forfeiture, Haff said, is that police agencies will often seize the assets, usually cash, under the assumption that the assets are related to criminal activity, with no proof.
“A lot of people are intimidated by police,” he said. “My definition of forfeit is you willingly give it up.”
Haff cited the example of a Moreau convenience store owner who was traveling to India to visit family, and during his trip the man had a large quantity of cash. When going through security at the airport, authorities seized the money, assuming it was obtained through illicit sources. The man was released as there was no evidence to support an arrest.
“They charge the property – property has no rights in court, it’s not like a human. Then they say ‘You’re lucky we’re not charging you too,’” Haff said.
Jordan said most seized funds are obtained from “large quantity heroin, crack cocaine” cases.
While cash is the primary asset forfeited, Jordan said other assets can be seized.
“We’ve seized cars that were used to transport drugs, saws that were used to cut through concrete to get to floor safes,” he said.
Real estate is also something authorities have discussed seizing, “if you can establish it was obtained using funds obtained illicitly,” Jordan said. “It is something we’ve looked at from time to time.”
Haff may have been adamant on his “nay” stance, but other supervisors were just as firm with their support.
“Dana Haff does not like to use any money the law takes from proven offenders,” said Whitehall supervisor George Armstrong. “I believe money and items taken from these offenders should be put to good use. These forfeited funds replace money that otherwise taxpayers would have to pay for.”
Haff acknowledged that several supervisors approached him to say he needs to support the sheriffs and the district attorney.
“I do support them,” Haff said. “I just don’t support forfeiture.”

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