United States v. The Leasehold Interests in 121 Nostrand Avenue, Apartment 1-C

760 F. Supp. 1015 (1991)

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United States v. The Leasehold Interests in 121 Nostrand Avenue, Apartment 1-C

United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
760 F. Supp. 1015 (1991)

LJ

Facts

Apartment 1-C (defendant) was located in the Marcy Public Housing Project in Brooklyn, New York. Clara Smith was the owner of a leasehold interest in Apartment 1-C for 32 years. On January 31, 1990, an undercover police officer purchased crack cocaine from a woman who lived in Apartment 1-C. The woman was later identified as Smith’s granddaughter, who also resided within the apartment unit. In February 1990, a search warrant was executed, and substantial quantities of drugs were found within the apartment unit. It was determined by the authorities that the apartment was used to store drugs. The United States filed a civil-forfeiture action against Apartment 1-C pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(7), which allowed for a lawsuit directly against property in order to remove drug dealers from public housing projects. The United States argued that the property was subject to the forfeiture action because the large number of drugs and paraphernalia located in Apartment 1-C, along with the plea of the granddaughter, was sufficient to establish probable cause. Smith raised the affirmative defense that the illegal drug use occurring within the apartment unit was without her knowledge or consent. Smith contended that she was unaware of any drug activity and had never been in the presence of drugs within the apartment. Smith additionally testified that when an anonymous source raised the concern that one of her family members might be involved with drugs, Smith directly questioned her family members, who all denied such use. As a precautionary measure, Smith also prohibited guests from visiting her apartment unit if she was not home to ensure there was no drug use.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Weinstein, J.)

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