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Murshid v. State ex rel. Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

May 8, 2018

ABDULKHALIQ MOHAMMED MURSHID APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, EX REL. MISSISSIPPI BUREAU OF NARCOTICS APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/09/2017

          LAUDERDALE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. JUSTIN MILLER COBB, TRIAL JUDGE.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: P. SHAWN HARRIS

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: ALLISON WALKER KILLEBREW

          BEFORE LEE, C.J., CARLTON AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.

          LEE, C.J.

         ¶1. 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.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On July 9, 2015, Abdulkhaliq Murshid was arrested for violating the Uniform Controlled Substances Law.[1] 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.[2] 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.

         ¶3. Murshid now appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by finding $131, 729.26 was subject to forfeiture.

         FACTS

         ¶4. 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.

         ¶5. 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.

         ¶6. 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 ...


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