NORMAN, Okla. – A Norman city councilman is fighting back after he was charged for crimes in connection with his day job at a local pipe shop.
A police raid at the store led to the criminal case against the store owner and the councilman, who is the manager.
But it isn’t stopping business as usual.
The city councilman and his attorney say they’re confident the charges will be dropped, or a jury will decide in their favor if the case goes to trial.
They insist they aren’t doing anything illegal.
The Friendly Market at 12th and Constitution is back open for business.
The shelves are restocked with merchandise just like what police seized earlier this month.
On Friday, city councilman Stephen Holman was arraigned on seven counts of unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia.
He was at the store when police seized glass pipes, rolling papers, sales reports and cash.
Attorney Blake Lynch represents Holman and the store owner.
“The state’s working on the premise they can essentially bully people into taking pleas and giving up their property by doing this, filing charges, making them hire attorneys, making them come in here to court,” Lynch said.
State Senator Kyle Loveless has heard similar concerns about civil asset forfeiture, which is money or property seized by law enforcement believed to be related to criminal activity.
Under current law, the assets can be forfeited before a conviction.
Loveless wants to change that.
“It’s too pervasive in that the person, an innocent person, can get their stuff taken and then they have to go before a court to prove it, and that’s not what our founding fathers would ever want or intend,” Sen. Loveless said.
Loveless also argues the way money seizures are done on our state highways under current law may not be effective.
“The average forfeiture is $1,200. I just find that very difficult, a drug cartel in Columbia or Mexico or wherever, is going to care for a second about $1,200,” Loveless said.
Back in Norman, Holman says police seized about $10,000 in merchandise and $2,000 in cash from his briefcase.
He’ll head back to court next year.