A civil suit has been filed against the City of Delta and the Delta Police Department, alleging the city has a policy and practice of permitting automobiles to be seized and sold and benefitting from their sale without proper procedure.
The suit was filed by Grand Junction residents Sosha Trujillo and her mother, Terrie Johnson, who claim their 2004 Jaguar automobile was improperly impounded and subsequently sold. Named as defendants are DPD officers Robert Thomas (former chief), Rdean Young and Jesse Cox.
According to the suit, Officer Rdean Young cited Trujillo for driving under revocation during a traffic stop on April 1, 2015. The red Jaguar she was driving was not registered and displayed a temporary license plate in the rear window. The temporary plate had allegedly been stolen, but the 2004 Jaguar had not been reported as stolen. Officer Young arranged for the vehicle to be towed and held, with conditions of release listed as "proof of ownership" and "registration."
Johnson was able to produce a bill of sale from a salvage company, but Chief Thomas advised the bill of sale was insufficient proof of ownership. So Johnson arranged for a VIN inspection with the Colorado State Patrol. The CSP declined to come to the impound lot for that purpose. According to court documents, Chief Thomas advised her that she had been told what was needed and that the car would be sold at auction shortly.
Johnson sought relief through Delta County Court on May 13, but her request was denied on procedural grounds and on May 15, the Jaguar "was then sold or given to another party."
On Aug. 3, Trujillo filed a motion for the return of her car, and the motion was granted. But by then, the car was no longer available to return to Trujillo.
Officer Jesse Cox had purportedly sent notice to the last registered owner of the Jaguar, although he was aware that Trujillo and Johnson had an interest in the car.
"Defendants' practice and policy of seizing, selling and profiting from plaintiffs' property where the property was not evidence of a crime, stolen, presented a traffic hazard or abandoned violates the plaintiffs' property interests protected under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution," the suit alleges.
Specifically, court documents state, Officer Young seized the Jaguar "without consent, without a warrant, without probable cause and without any legal justification whatsoever." The charges against Trujillo were dismissed in county court.
The plaintiffs, represented by Dan Shaffer, are seeking compensatory and punitive damages in U.S. District Court. The case has been assigned to Magistrate Judge Gordon Gallagher, and a scheduling conference was set for May 10 in Grand Junction.
A collaborative effort between the Delta County Sheriff's Office and municipal law enforcement agencies throughout Delta County has resulted in a proposal for a 1 percent sales tax increase to fund public safety. A PowerPoint presentation titled "Back the Badge" is starting to make the rounds at city/town council meetings, service club luncheons and other events.