OF JUDGMENT: 02/09/2017
LAUDERDALE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. JUSTIN MILLER COBB,
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: P. SHAWN HARRIS
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: ALLISON WALKER KILLEBREW
LEE, C.J., CARLTON AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.
In this forfeiture case, we must determine whether the trial
court's decision to grant the State's complaint for
forfeiture is supported by substantial evidence.
On July 9, 2015, Abdulkhaliq Murshid was arrested for
violating the Uniform Controlled Substances
Mushid was indicted for possession with intent to sell more
than 200 grams of synthetic cannabinoids, a/k/a "spice,
" a Schedule I controlled substance. See
Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-139 (Supp. 2017). Due to the
quantity involved, the charge qualifies as drug trafficking
and carries a minimum sentence of ten years'
imprisonment, a maximum sentence of forty years'
imprisonment, and a fine of up to one million dollars. §
41-29-139(f). The State filed a complaint for forfeiture in
the Lauderdale County Circuit Court, seeking certain property
belonging to Murshid, including $227, 278.26 in U.S.
currency, two guns, a digital video recorder, a DVD player,
and a computer tablet. Murshid filed a response arguing that
the property was not subject to forfeiture. After a hearing,
the trial court granted the State's request as to $131,
729.26. The trial court denied the State's request as to
the remainder of the currency ($95, 549) and the property.
Murshid now appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by
finding $131, 729.26 was subject to forfeiture.
On July 9, 2015, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics (MBN)
executed a search warrant at the Meridian Tobacco Store,
located at 4501 8th Street in Meridian, Mississippi. Murshid
owned the store and operated it with his wife Susan. It was
formerly named Chimney Tobacco Store and had been at a
different location (5300 5th Street). The record is not clear
when the store moved and changed names, but, prior to and
after the store's name and location change, MBN agents
made eight controlled buys at Chimney Tobacco and two
controlled buys at Meridian Tobacco. According to the search
warrant, all ten controlled buys occurred between July 30,
2014 and July 8, 2015.
That same day MBN agents went to Grey Cloud Discount Tobacco
Store, located at 2012 Highway 45 North, to arrest Murshid.
Murshid also owned Grey Cloud and several other stores in
Meridian. Murshid was not at the store, but an MBN agent
witnessed what he suspected were synthetic cannabinoids for
sale. Another agent, Will Peterson, responded to the store to
further investigate. Ultimately, Agent Peterson obtained a
search warrant for Grey Cloud. During the search of Grey
Cloud, agents discovered synthetic cannabinoids in a drawer
near the cash register and in boxes in the office.
Approximately 180 packages of suspected synthetic
cannabinoids were seized. The agents also discovered the
following in the office: approximately $28, 000 in cash
dispersed throughout several plastic bags; approximately $5,
600 in cash locked in the office desk; $191, 951 in cash
locked inside a safe in the office; two guns; and various
pieces of electronic equipment. At the forfeiture hearing,
Agent Peterson testified that the items seized were in close
proximity to the synthetic cannabinoids.
Murshid claimed that he thought the drugs were herbal incense
and that his wife was responsible for ordering them. Murshid
testified that $95, 549 of the cash in the safe had been
returned to him by the Drug Enforcement Agency in 2014.
Murshid further testified that the remaining cash in his
office was from his stores' earnings and his savings. He
stated that he did not ...