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Prosecutors return $21,227 more to Interstate 40 travelers

An Oklahoma district attorney has dropped efforts to keep funds found in three more cases where money was taken from travelers during drug stops.
by Nolan Clay Modified: July 28, 2013 at 3:00 pm •  Published: July 28, 2013

HINTON — A district attorney is returning funds in three more cases where his drug task force took money from travelers on Interstate 40.

Two of the three cases involved stops where money was seized, but no one was arrested. A total of $21,227 is being returned in the three cases.

“I was really, really very scared,” said Julius S. Crooks, 28, who is getting back $7,500 and a semi-automatic rifle.

He was stopped in January on the way home to California from visiting family in Alabama. He was not arrested.

District Attorney Jason Hicks agreed Thursday to return the funds in the three cases, dropping efforts to have the money forfeited to law enforcement use. He had alleged cash found in the stops was drug money.

Prosecutors earlier dropped criminal cases arising from other drug stops. They also returned nearly $17,000 and a vehicle seized in those stops.

Hicks is under fire for hiring a private company, Desert Snow LLC, to assist in his drug interdiction effort.

After hiring the Guthrie company in January, his task force seized more than $1 million in the stops, mostly along a 21-mile stretch of I-40 in Caddo County. Hicks agreed to pay the company 25 percent of all forfeited proceeds from stops involving its trainers.

Critics said the arrangement led to instances where money was seized from cars for trumped-up reasons.

“The Constitution was suspended in Caddo County,” said Oklahoma City attorney Mark Myles, who represented Crooks.

Hicks halted his drug interdiction effort immediately after a judge became upset with it July 2.

“I'm shocked,” the judge said after learning Desert Snow's owner pulled over a pregnant woman and questioned her, even though he is not a state-certified law enforcement officer.

‘I believe I have done everything right'

Hicks is the district attorney in Caddo, Grady, Jefferson and Stephens counties. “I believe I have done everything right,” he told The Oklahoman July 18.

Hicks declined Friday to explain why he is returning money in the three latest cases.

“I've taken the position that I'm not going to comment on anything else until … we've had the opportunity to review everything,” Hicks said.

Hicks said he does not plan to return nearly $850,000 seized in one stop in May. No one was arrested in that stop.

“I hope that people don't have the impression that the guys from Desert Snow were up on the highway running around by themselves, because they weren't,” he said.

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by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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