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United States v. $28

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division

July 28, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
$28, 720.00 IN UNITED STATES CURRENCY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

MARTIN REIDINGER, District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Government's Motion to Enter Judgment Against and to Strike the Claim of Sandra Isabel Rodriguez [Doc. 18].

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The Government initiated this civil in rem forfeiture proceeding on April 17, 2013 with the filing of a Verified Complaint. [Doc. 1]. The Claimants Fernando Gonzalez ("Gonzalez") and Sandra Isabel Rodriguez ("Rodriguez") (collectively, "Claimants"), through counsel, filed a joint Verified Claim on May 8, 2013. [Doc. 5]. The Claimants filed an Amended Verified Claim and an Answer on May 29, 2013. [Doc. 7].

A Pretrial Order was entered on July 25, 2013, setting a discovery deadline of April 1, 2014 and a motions deadline of May 1, 2014, and setting this matter for a bench trial during the September 8, 2014 trial term. [Doc. 11]. On April 8, 2014, the Government moved to compel Gonzalez's appearance at a deposition. [Doc. 12]. The Court denied the Government's motion as untimely on April 17, 2014. [Doc. 16]. The Government sought reconsideration of this motion [Doc. 18], which was denied [Doc. 20].

On May 1, 2014, the Government filed the present motion for the entry of summary judgment against Claimant Rodriguez only. [Doc. 18]. To date, Rodriguez has not filed any opposition to the Government's Motion.

II. THE SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is "material" if it "might affect the outcome of the case." News and Observer Pub. Co. v. Raleigh-Durham Airport Auth. , 597 F.3d 570, 576 (4th Cir. 2010). A "genuine dispute" exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

A party asserting that a fact cannot be genuinely disputed must support its assertion with citations to the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). "Regardless of whether he may ultimately be responsible for proof and persuasion, the party seeking summary judgment bears an initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc. , 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003). If this showing is made, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party who must convince the Court that a triable issue does exist. Id.

In considering the facts for the purposes of a summary judgment motion, the Court must view the pleadings and materials presented in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and must draw all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor. Adams v. Trustees of the Univ. of N.C. -Wilmington , 640 F.3d 550, 556 (4th Cir. 2011). Where the non-moving party has not responded to the motion, however, the Court may consider the forecast of evidence presented by the movant to be undisputed for the purposes of the present motion. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2).

III. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In light of Claimant Rodriguez's failure to respond to the Government's Motion, the following forecast of evidence is not in dispute.

On October 23, 2012, at approximately 9:30 p.m., Fernando Gonzalez was driving a 2004 BMW Mini Cooper, VIN WMWRC33494TC49089, in Buncombe County, North Carolina. [Verified Complaint, Doc. 1 at ¶ 9]. The BMW Mini Cooper was registered in North Carolina to Claimant Sandra Isabel Rodriguez. [Id. at ¶ 10]. Roice Figueroa was the only other passenger in the vehicle. [Id. at ¶ 11].

Gonzalez was stopped by Deputy Jason Lambert of the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office for driving erratically and operating a motor vehicle with an inoperable headlight. [Id. at ¶¶ 12, 13]. Deputy Lambert issued Gonzalez a citation for improper equipment. [Id. at ¶ 14]. Deputy Lambert requested and was given verbal consent by Gonzalez to search the vehicle. [Id. at ¶ 15]. During the search, approximately $5, 000 in cash was discovered in the driver's door ...


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