Judge rejects prosecutors’ arguments for keeping cash seized at Buffalo airport
Attorney Steve Cohen was interviewed by the Buffalo News about the decision & order of U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Vilardo to deny the federal government’s claim to money seized from a Rochester man traveling through the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
Judge Vilardo said prosecutors failed to tie the passenger to any criminal activity, let alone narcotics trafficking. He then accused the authorities of relying on racial stereotypes when they seized the bills from the late Nazier L. McFadden, who was 19 at the time and had no criminal record.
Local lawyer Steven M. Cohen says he has seen forfeiture cases in which, to him, the government abused its authority.
“This decision breathes life back into a constitution that has been all but forgotten by much of the federal bench,” Cohen said after The Buffalo News asked him to read the McFadden ruling. “Judge Vilardo reminds the government that it has the burden of proof in establishing that property is linked to a crime before it is subject to forfeiture.
“For this judge, the government’s burden of showing a likelihood of criminality is not met simply because a man with no criminal record, who has a large amount of cash, is Black.”
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