MOORHEAD – Clay County is writing a $9,928 check to a suspected drug dealer and returning his car after a judge dismissed the charges against him.
Moorhead police impounded the Chevrolet Corvette of Thomas Lloyd Schultz, 26, after he was cited on June 17 for driving with a suspended license. Police then searched the vehicle and found $9,928 in cash mixed in with 4½ pounds of marijuana, according to Clay County Attorney Brian Melton.
But because of a recent Minnesota Supreme Court ruling and a change in state law, the felony charges against Schultz – fifth-degree sale and possession of marijuana – were dismissed by Judge Michael Fritz on Oct. 14.
Now Schultz is getting his Corvette and cash back.
“Obviously, as a prosecutor, I am greatly disappointed in the recent decision handed down by the Minnesota Supreme Court,” Melton wrote in a letter to Schultz on Monday sent along with a check for $9,928. “… But I would imagine, as a drug dealer, you are enjoying these decisions immensely.”
The state Supreme Court on Aug. 20 sided with a woman whose car was impounded and searched after a traffic stop in Anoka County. Police found two bags of methamphetamine and glass pipes in Erica Rohde’s car, and she was later convicted of two drug charges.
The conviction was reversed on appeal by the Supreme Court, which ruled that impounding and searching Rohde’s car was unconstitutional because police did not originally intend to arrest her and her car was not blocking traffic or posing a safety hazard.
That ruling made the police search of Schultz’ Corvette unlawful, Fritz wrote in his judgment.
According to the Rohde decision, “the police should have let you drive off after finding you in violation of the law,” Melton wrote to Schultz. “… Unfortunately, the trial court here in Clay County is required to follow the Supreme Court’s decision in Rohde and the charges against you have been dismissed.”
After the charges against Schultz were dismissed, Clay County was required to return his impounded property, with one exception.
“You may be wondering whether this means that you are getting your 4½ pounds of marijuana returned to you,” Melton wrote. “You are not.”
But Schultz isn’t in the clear just yet.
He faces a new charge of fourth-degree sale of a controlled substance in a school zone for allegedly selling one-half pound of marijuana near St. Joseph’s School on Oct. 1, Melton wrote.
“As those charges continue to move through the court system, you may find the $9,928 advantageous to help pay your legal fees in that case,” he wrote.