Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Court Rules Greenetrack Machines Improperly Seized by State

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Court Rules Greenetrack Machines Improperly Seized by State

Article excerpt

A specially appointed Greene County judge has thrown out the state's 2011 forfeiture petition against the Greenetrack gambling center.

Citing the inability of the state attorney general's office to electronically submit court documents with proper signatures, Special Greene County Circuit Court Judge Houston L. Brown upheld Greenetrack's motion to dismiss the forfeiture petition on Wednesday.

"When the state seeks to seize, condemn and forfeit property used for an illegal transaction," wrote Brown in his ruling, "the forfeiture statute must be strictly construed because forfeiture is harsh and penal in nature. ... Strict compliance with the letter of the law by those seeking forfeiture must be required."

Joy Patterson, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Luther Strange, said the state will seek a higher opinion.

"We respectfully disagree with the trial court's ruling and plan to appeal the order to the Alabama Supreme Court as we have done before," Patterson said.

She was referring to a similar ruling issued by Brown that the attorney general's office appealed to the Supreme Court. In that, the state's high court issued a stay on Brown's ruling that the machines and cash should return to Greenetrack.

That stay will remain until lifted by the Supreme Court, but that is not preventing Greenetrack from claiming victory on the lower court's ruling.

"Greenetrack is pleased with the order dismissing the state's forfeiture action," said Charlanna W. Spencer, a Montgomery-based attorney representing Greenetrack. "This ruling means that Greenetrack's machines, equipment and money are due to be returned.

"However, as is their usual practice, we expect that the attorney general's office will appeal. When they do, Greenetrack will be prepared to respond because Greenetrack is entitled to the return of its property according to Alabama law."

Wednesday's ruling stems from the June 1, 2011, raid by state law enforcement that seized 376 bingo machines and $93,170.50 from Greenetrack. …

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