BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A Birmingham businessman says Attorney General Steve Marshall has returned most of the $240,000 he seized from that businessman in a bank account in Madison County.
Bruce Pettway, owner of Employer Benefits Consulting says 15-thousand dollars of that amount was payment for consulting services for a bingo operation in Brighton. Marshall agreed to return the rest after federal judge Karen Bowdre ruled last week that Pettway’s lawsuit could proceed.
Pettway and his attorney U.W. Clemon suggest Pettway was a victim of civil asset forfeiture gone wrong.
“You cannot just seize people’s property. I don’t care if you’re poor, middle class or rich,” says Pettway. “Everyone deserves a fairness about the process and there is no fairness in what Attorney General Steve Marshall has done.”
While Pettway is a successful businessman, Clemon says every Alabamian ought to be concerned about his case arguing civil asset forfeiture has been used predominantly against poor and black citizens. “
This is a case in which a businessman who could afford to pay for my services or any other lawyer’s services could challenge this unconstitutional action by the attorney general” says Clemon. "We’re hoping that as a result of this litigation, that kind of unconstitutional taking of property of persons - some of whom have never been charged with a crime - that that practice will come to an end.
Marshall had argued the money was a revenue share from the bingo operations, and had also accused Pettway’s brother, Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway, of failing to police bingo operations in the county.