The Standard-Examiner provides the latest development in the Matthew Stewart shoot 'm up case this morning, with a Tim Gurrister story reporting that Weber County officials are "dropping their forfeiture action and giving back Defendant Matthew David Stewart’s home":
An analysis of the home’s equity showed that the debt on the house likely exceeded its fair market value, according to the stipulated motion for dismissal written by Deputy Weber County Attorney Jeff Thomson.This case has been dragging on for some nine months now, folks; and it seems outright bizarre to us that county prosecutors have arrived at this rather elementary decision at this ridiculously late juncture. During the ensuing period of time, Defendant Stewart has been deprived of possession and control of his "under water" property, during which period his family could have made necessary repairs and leased it out, mitigating, at least to some extent, the mortgage arrearages mentioned in today's S-E story. A proper "market analysis" could have been easily produced within weeks, not months, folks.
“For this reason, the State has decided not to proceed in this forfeiture action.”
Why the "property equity" issue was not raised early in this proceeding we do not know, but we do have a suggestion for the (so-called) pro-property rights Utah legislature:
1) Amend the applicable civil forfeiture statute ( Utah Forfeiture Procedures Act (UFPC) forthwith, and include a requirement that a "net value" judicial determination and finding be an early requirement in such proceedings.
2) Better yet, provide that such a showing be a firm threshold pleading requirement, part of the government's "prima facia case," a procedural prerequisite (by means of a prosecution "sworn declaration" perhaps) which must be satisfied as a condition of the government's filing of any property forfeiture action.
Regardless of your take on Matthew Stewart's criminal "guilt or innocence," gentle readers, we believe all liberty-loving folks will agree that Mr. Stewart's property rights have been seriously infringed in this instance.
Seems to us that so long as our "private property loving" Utah legislature insists on a draconian policy of "civally seizing" a criminal defendant's property years before he's possibly criminally convicted, even the morons in the legislature ought to "religiously" protect "all" Utah property owners' rights, don'tcha think?