Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Damages award for man who bought marijuana-stuffed SUV at police auction and subsequently got arrested for possession.

A federal judge in San Diego has awarded $551,000 in damages to a man who bought a car with 37 pounds of marijuana hidden in it at a government auction.

Francisco Rivera Agrendano spent a year in a Mexican prison after he was busted at a roadblock near Ensenada while driving an SUV that turned out to have packages of moldering pot stuffed in the door panels and seats.

The San Diego Union-Tribune said Monday that U.S. District Judge Emily Hewitt wrote in a her recently released opinion that U.S. Customs officials could not explain how they missed so much contraband when they originally searched the vehicle; however she dismissed the contention that agents didn't tear it apart too much so they could maintain the resale value.

Federal attorneys were not required to go into much detail on their search procedures in order to prevent their techniques from being made public.

Rivera told The Union-Tribune in Tijuana that he was pleased with Hewitt's decision but said the amount wouldn't cover the expenses of his ordeal. Hewitt's order specified how much of the award would go to legal expenses, lost income, the price of the SUV and psychiatric treatment.

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