United States District Court, District of Columbia
CHRISTOPHER R COOPER United States District Judge
case of the Samaritan train passenger is nearing its final
destination. Interested readers may recall that in March 2014
an Amtrak passenger inadvertently exited a train with a
backpack containing $17, 900 in cash and turned it over to
the police. That selfless act spawned this action, in which
the United States seeks forfeiture of the money as proceeds
of drug trafficking. Standing in the government's tracks
are Angela Rodriquez, whose son Peter was travelling with the
backpack on the train, and her domestic partner Joyce
Copeland. They filed sworn claims insisting that the cash is
Court briefly derailed the women's claims in August 2016.
Applying the summary judgment standard, the Court found that
the couple's tall tale of how the money wound up in
Peter's backpack so “defie[d] common sense”
that no reasonable juror could conclude they owned the money.
United States v. $17, 900, 200 F.Supp.3d 132, 140
(D.D.C. 2016). The Court of Appeals disagreed, however, and
reversed the Court's ruling striking the claims.
United States v. $17, 900, 859 F.3d 1085 (D.C. Cir.
2017). The Circuit held that the claimants' story of
ownership, while improbable perhaps, was sufficient to
require a jury because it was not “undermined either by
other credible evidence, physical impossibility, or other
persuasive evidence that the plaintiff has deliberately
committed perjury.” Id. at 1093 (quoting
Chenari v. George Washington University, 847 F.3d
740, 747 (D.C. Cir. 2017)).
remand, the parties proceeded to conduct additional
discovery. And after receiving responses to its document
requests, the government has again moved to strike the
couple's claims. The claims should be stricken, the
government argues, because discovery has revealed evidence
that the claimants perjured themselves.
the skinny: The couple's claims to the money rest on
their contention that they left their home in New York on
February 15, 2014, drove to North Carolina where Peter lived,
left the cash with him, and then returned to New York on
February 26, 2014. They presented this narrative in sworn
responses to special interrogatories issued by the
government. The government now has the claimants' bank
records. Lo and behold, they show that the women made
numerous cash withdrawals and charges to their credit cards
in New York City-including purchases at Gucci and Dean &
Deluca no less-during the 11-day period they swore they were
in North Carolina. Second Mot. Strike Claims, Exs. 6-10. So
their story of how Peter got the cash is directly
contradicted by the bank records. Persuasive evidence of
with the government's renewed motion to strike, the
claimants' attorneys filed a perfunctory opposition that
did not contest the government's evidence. They then
moved to withdraw from the case. After a hearing-which
neither claimant attended despite the Court's order that
at least one of them do so-the Court permitted counsel's
withdrawal and provided the claimants nearly a month to
supplement their opposition to the government's motion.
Hearing no response, the Court deemed any further opposition
to be abandoned. See May 25, 2018 Minute Order;
Local Civ. R. 7(b), (f).
of the line should now be obvious: In light of the
government's uncontested evidence that Ms. Rodriquez and
Ms. Copeland perjured themselves in their sworn interrogatory
responses, the Court finds that they lack standing to
challenge forfeiture of the currency and, accordingly, will
strike their claims with prejudice. A separate order will
 In so holding, the panel wisely
cautioned the government (and, implicitly, district courts)
against “circumvent[ing] the jury process” by
discrediting sworn testimony “because it is out of line
with our own lived experiences.” 859 F.3d at 1093. To
illustrate the point, the court noted that “a jury of
laypeople with different and more diverse life
experiences” might view the claimants' professed
choice to travel with and use sizable amounts of cash rather
than a credit card with “considerably less
suspicion” than might “the sovereign's
judges.” Id. See also id. at 1090 (citing
official reports that low-income, minority households are
less likely to use banking and similar financial services).
But just to set the record straight, this Court made clear in
its ruling that it considered the very point raised by the
Court of Appeals, yet found it inapplicable to the claimants.
See 200 F.Supp.3d at 140 n.8 (“The Court is
mindful of Claimants' observation that some lower-income
Americans maintain cash because they are effectively shut out
of the traditional banking system. At the time of the
relevant events, however, both women maintained bank
accounts, at least Ms. Copeland was gainfully ...