Police take money for evidence out of budget

Published 10:44 pm Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Selma’s police department will take $8,600 from its auto fuel allowance and drug unit expense account to pay for two missing cars from evidence and some cash and attorney’s fees.

The Selma City Council approved the payment of the money during its Tuesday night meeting. Then, they learned another car taken as evidence is missing.

The payment in the first case, involving a Chevrolet Caprice and a Honda, stems from two cars taken as evidence in a drug case back in 2006. The two men were convicted and served time. Sgt. Jimmy Martin, who was the police chief in 2006, said the police department filed the proper paperwork to have the cars condemned and turned over to the city. Detective Tim Barnhill filled out the paperwork and forwarded it over to the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office.

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But the district attorney failed to file the proper papers in the court to have the two vehicles forfeited over to the city, Martin said.

Mayor George Evans said he met with members of the police department for a long time, trying to find the cars.

“Those cars are gone,” Evans said. “Nobody has any record.”

Sgt. Samuel Miller, who is head of the Selma police narcotics unit, said the vehicles sat in the lot. The attorney for the two men, Bruce Maddox of Montgomery, approached Miller about recovering the vehicles. Miller said he told Maddox there was the matter of towing fees and that whomever took the cars had to have a driver’s license and proof of insurance before the vehicles could leave police impoundment.

Miller said Maddox became angry and left. Later the lot was cleared out and the vehicles left.

A call by The Selma Times-Journal to the district attorney’s office was not returned Tuesday. Barnhill, who filled out the condemnation paperwork, no longer works for the city. The former police detective was hired by the district attorney’s office, but a woman who answered the telephone Tuesday said Barnhill no longer works with that office.

The failure to file the proper papers in court was not that of the city attorney, Jimmy Nunn. The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that city attorneys have no jurisdiction in forfeiture cases. Nunn became involved only when requested last week by the judge to appear in court with Miller, who testified as to what he knew about the missing cars.

During the conversation about the $8,600 payment, Evans revealed to the city council another incident regarding missing evidence from about the same time.

An individual, Jerry Woods, was arrested, convicted and incarcerated. After he was released, he wanted his red Ford Mustang back, but the vehicle had been taken by the police department to Gary Mayton’s car lot and traded in on a van.

“Gary Mayton is no longer in business,” Evans said. “The Mustang was traded.”

Initially, the Mustang’s owner sought $5,000 for the vehicle. Nunn told the council he had met with the car’s owner and an attorney, and they had agreed on $3,500 as a price for the car.

The city did not take any action on the Mustang’s payment. However, some council members had sharp words for the handling of the situations. Councilwoman Bennie Ruth Crenshaw of Ward 7 wants a timeline and a written report on the entire situation, “so when we take a look at it, we will know what we’re looking at.”

Councilwoman Angela Benjamin of Ward 4 asked, “How in the world do you lose two big cars that are tons in weight? We need to prevent this from happening in the future, where this stuff just disappears.”