Cash case throws spotlight on clash between states

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

We concluded a recent editorial with the statement that "occasionally allowing guilty people to go unpunished is the price for preserving freedom for the rest of us."

It didn't take long to reinforce that idea.

Monday, a Nebraska judge threw out a case against a Minnesota man who admitted he was taking $65,000 in cash to Colorado to buy pot that he intended to sell back home.

Our editorial was in response to Gov. Pete Ricketts' signing of LB 1106, which requires a criminal conviction for illegal drugs, child pornography or illegal gambling for subjects to lose their cash, vehicles, firearms or real estate.

Erik Felsheim of Waseca, Minn., and a friend were on their way to Colorado when they were arrested in a traffic stop on I-80 west of Lincoln. Felsheim told a sheriff's deputy what the money was for and he was charged with possession of money intended for a drug violation and aiding the delivery of a controlled substance.

His passenger served a year in jail after accepting a plea deal on a charge of attempted possession of marijuana and money while violating drug laws.

Felson chose to go to trial, where his attorney successfully argued that it is not a violation of Nebraska law to conspire to break the law of another state.

His attorney pointed to a case where a man was convicted of conspiracy after paying another man in Nebraska to assault a third man in Colorado. The Nebraska Supreme Court overturned that conviction because the assault never happened.

Prosecutors also failed to gain traction with the contention that Felsheim was likely to bring the drugs back through Nebraska. Perhaps he was planning to detour through Wyoming and South Dakota.

Although Nebraska law makes it a crime to possess money intended for illegal drugs, the judge ruled that possession alone wasn't a crime.

The chief prosecutor doesn't plan an appeal, but warns that the case sets a bad precedent by failing to convict someone who admitted to doing something wrong.

The issue goes beyond the conflict between federal, Nebraska and Colorado laws concerning marijuana, but until that and other interstate disputes are resolved, true justice is the victim.

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