USA v. Vehicle Jeep
MEMORANDUM RULING: The 3 Motion to Stay is DENIED, without prejudice to the right of the mover to seek additional relief as/if necessary. Signed by Magistrate Judge Patrick J Hanna on 8/26/2014. (crt,Alexander, E)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
CIVIL ACTION NO. 6:14-CV-1080
2013 JEEP WRANGLER SPORT
MAGISTRATE JUDGE HANNA
Before the Court is the Motion to Stay by the government [Rec. Doc. 3], which
motion has been referred to the undersigned for ruling. [Rec. Doc. 7]. Oral argument was
heard on the motion on August 26, 2014.
Factual and Procedural Background
As part of a criminal investigation, Task Force agents monitored telephone calls of
a suspect during his incarceration in Iberia Parish Jail between August 23, 2013 and
November 8,2013. Telephone conversations between the suspect and Amy Messa were
interpreted to convey that Messa had allowed another individual to use her 2013 Jeep
Wrangler to transport methamphetamine from Texas to Louisiana, and that Messa was
paid for that favor with methamphetamine. The interpretation was confirmed by a
On January 6, 2014, narcotics agents went to Messa’s residence; she consented to a
search of the residence, and she admitted allowing an individual to use her Jeep for two
trips to Texas. On January 9, 2014, DEA agents administratively seized Messa’s 2013
Jeep Wrangler pursuant to provisions of 21 U.S.C. §881(a)(4), as a vehicle used to
transport/facilitate transport of controlled substances.
On March 4, 2014, a claim was made in state court for release of Messa’s vehicle.
That action triggered the requirement upon the government to file a civil forfeiture
proceeding within ninety (90) days per 18 U.S.C. §983(a)(3)(A). The government timely
filed the Verified Complaint for Forfeiture in Rem on June 2, 2014. [Rec. Doc. 1]. Messa
filed an Answer to the Complaint [Rec. Doc. 5], generally denying any knowledge that
her vehicle was involved in illegal activity and advancing an ‘innocent owner’ defense.
The government now seeks to have the civil forfeiture proceeding stayed pending the
conclusion of the related criminal investigation or trial per 18 U.S.C. §981(g)(1).
Applicable Law and Analysis
To succeed with a motion to stay invoking 18 U.S.C. §981(g)(1), the government
must show that (1) discovery in the case will adversely affect the pending criminal case,
and (2) the criminal action is “related” to the instant case. United States v. All Funds
($357,311.68) Contained in N. Trust Bank of Fla. Account, No. 04-1476, 2004 WL
1834589, at *1-4 (N.D.Tex. Aug. 10, 2004); United States v. $1,730,010.00 in U.S.
Currency More or Less, 2007 WL 1164104 (W.D. Tex. Apr. 16, 2007). The government
asserts that criminal and civil matter “overlap,” and that allowing Messa to obtain civil
discovery from the government concerning an active criminal investigation would
adversely affect the government’s ability to conduct its investigation and complete the
criminal prosecution, and they seek protection from the expansive scope of civil
discovery. They argue that a six month stay would allow for completion of the related
In response to the arguments of the parties and the questions from the Court in the
interests of protecting the integrity of the government’s criminal investigation while
affording Ms. Messa her right to discover evidence to address the question whether her
vehicle is properly ‘forfeitable,’ the parties have agreed to a range of limited discovery
which could be undertaken in the case, both formally and informally, with avenues for
objection by the government and restriction by the Court. Specifically, Ms. Messa may
formally inquire through normal civil discovery techniques, to which the government may
object if appropriate and the Court will fashion the appropriate protective order on an
Therefore, the Motion to Stay is DENIED, without prejudice to the right of the
mover to seek additional relief as/if necessary.
Signed at Lafayette, Louisiana this 26th day of August, 2014.
Patrick J. Hanna
United States Magistrate Judge
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