The opinion of the court was delivered by: Patrick A. Conmy, Senior District Judge United States District Court
ORDER GRANTING RULE 29 MOTION FOR DIRECTED VERDICT OF ACQUITTAL
The defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. The scheme was allegedly designed to hide, conceal, etc. the proceeds of drug dealing engaged in by one Donovan Slagg.
Mr. Slagg was arrested on a meth possession and distribution charge in Burleigh County, North Dakota. He was charged under State law and a State District Court Judge set his bail at $50,000 (cash only).
Tamara Heid is Mr. Slagg's mother. He immediately contacted her from the jail,(on a line which is recorded for all inmate calls with the exception of calls to lawyers) and begged her to get him out of the jail. In a series of calls, Tamara Heid was directed to various individuals who either owed Mr. Slagg money or who might be willing to either contribute or loan money towards the cash bond fund. The calls contain a number of statements by Ms. Heid that she was not capable of raising that sum of money on her own or with assets available to her.
The funds were collected, and a decision made to contact a local bail bondsman, Derle Marchus, to hire him to accomplish Mr. Slagg's release using the $50,000 in cash, in exchange for a $1,000 fee. Ms. Heid contacted Derle Marchus by telephone on January 20, 2009, to make the arrangements. Derle testified that he writes 90% of the bonds in Burleigh County. Consequently, he is well known local bondsman.
On January 21, 2009, Derle and his son Jesse met Ms. Heid and her mother at what he believed to be the grandmother's apartment, where piles of cash were spread on every available surface. The funds were counted, supposedly to the total of $50,000, and an additional $1,000 given to Derle Marchus as the agreed upon fee for accomplishing the release of Mr. Slagg. Derle was armed and the funds were packed into a small duffel bag.
Derle and Jesse proceeded to the Burleigh County Courthouse (weapon checked at the door with the court security officers) and delivered the cash to the office of the clerk of District Court. The cash was unpacked and 2 clerk's office employees began counting it. This count showed the total to be only $48,000. Ms. Heid was contacted and joined Derle and Jesse in a clerk's office conference room, where the funds were again counted and somehow, the proper total reached.
Two documents were prepared. The first was the "bond jacket or envelope" which was completed by Derle Marchus. This showed that the cash bond was being posted by Marchus's bonding company for the release of Donovan Slagg, and the security, the $50,000 in cash was to be transferred back to Ms. Heid if the bond was exonerated. The second document was prepared by the clerk's office, and was the treasury department form 8300 required when cash transactions of $10,000 or more are entered into.
When deputy clerk Peggy Walker asked whose name should appear as providing the money, neither Heid (who had in fact provided the money) or Derle (who had already disclaimed any ownership interest in the money in the assignment back of the proceeds on the bail jacket) wanted their names listed. All appeared to be operating on the assumption that having their name on the form converted the proceeds into reportable income. Jesse, indicating his only reachable assets were some music videos, told the clerks office to insert his name and taxpayer identification number as the person acting as the agent for Donovan Slagg.
Ms. Heid walked down the hall to the sheriff's office and jail and acquired her son. Federal authorities then indicted Mr. Slagg and a group of other individuals, and the North Dakota State charge was dismissed, but before the dismissal was filed, the Federal Government seized the $50,000 from the clerk's office account in the US Bank.
When forfeiture proceedings were started, Ms. Heid filed a claim asserting, under oath, that the funds were the life savings or her and her mother.
The three individuals charged only with money laundering were severed for trial purposes from the drug defendants. Several drug defendants pleaded guilty and others, including Mr. Slagg were convicted.
Ms. Heid, one of the three solely indicted on the money laundering count, entered a plea of guilty on the Friday before trial. In the change of plea hearing she indicated that she was suffering from a brain tumor, was taking pain medication but understood what was happening. She indicated that she "just wanted to get this over with" and that it was a shame that while her son Donovan was 32 years old, she still had to keep track of all his transactions, prepare the bank deposits and allocate pocket cash to him. It appeared she was referring to his drug dealings. When asked what her intent was in gathering the cash and hiring Mr. Marchus, she replied "to get my son out of jail."
After review of the transcripts of the testimony presented at the earlier trial, the parties stipulated that at least a portion of the $50,000 had to have come from the drug dealings, and ...