A five-member panel of justices upheld a court decision to divide approximately $130,000 seized four years ago among the three Montana law enforcement agencies involved in the discovery and the case.
Rosebud County Attorney Michael Hayworth says the cash will be shared among the Montana Highway Patrol, the Eastern Montana Drug Task Force, and the Rosebud County Sheriff's Office. The patrol and the drug task force each will receive about $50,000, while the Rosebud County Sheriff's Office will get approximately $30,000.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Daniel Ward Payne was traveling through Montana in a rental car when he was stopped by Trooper Tim Lytle for speeding. Court records say Payne was going 98 mph.
Trooper Lytle's suspicions were piqued when Payne's account of his cross-country trip seemed contrived. The Trooper later spotted a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia in the car, after which Lytle secured permission from the rental car company to remove Payne's belongings from the vehicle.
Two backpacks and a locked plastic tool box were removed. Based on the information at hand, Lytle "suspected Payne was a drug courier," according to a transcript written by Justice John Warner.
Lytle contacted the Eastern Montana Drug Task Force, after which an agent secured a search warrant. A marijuana cigarette and two wrapped packages of cash were found inside the tool box.
Court records state that the officers "recognized this as a common way (drug) traffickers package cash that had been exposed to illegal drugs in order to prevent detection by drug-sniffing dogs." The cash was seized, and prosecutors later filed a petition of forfeiture, claiming the cash was illegal drug money.
While Payne pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor DUI and speeding charges, he later fought the forfeiture case in 2005. During the trial, Payne claimed he won the money in an illegal high-stakes poker game involving "gangster types" in Pittsburgh. Payne also claimed he was heading to Seattle as a means to avoid paying taxes on the money.
District Judge Joe Hegel of Rosebud County, who presided over the trial, ruled against Payne, saying he found the man's explanation for the cash "completely unbelievable."