The federal government has been ordered to pay a Nova Scotia man more than $25,000 in damages for items that were seized and held for years while his drug trafficking case made its way through the courts.
RCMP seized a long list of vehicles and antiques from Daniel Joseph Innocente when they first accused him of conspiring to traffic in cocaine and cannabis resin in June 1996.
The items seized included a Ford Thunderbird, a 1955 Chevy Bel Air, a 1987 Harley-Davidson motorcycle and a travel trailer.
The items were held by the federal Seized Property Management Directorate while the case made its way through the courts. The process was dragged out by appeals and a hung jury before being thrown out by a judge in 2000. Innocente was serving a seven-year sentence for other drug trafficking charges at the time.
The items were eventually returned to Innocente, but he said the government failed to take proper care of them and they sustained substantial damage.
Claimed more than 50K in damages
Innocente, who represented himself in a civil lawsuit, argued the total damages exceeded $50,000. Lawyers for the government countered the damaged items were worth no more than $13,785.
In a decision released this week, Justice Robert W. Wright of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court found the damages fell in the middle of the two claims.
Wright ordered the government to pay Innocente more than $17,500 in compensation for the trailer, which was valued at more than $18,000 when it was seized. It was left outdoors and unprotected, leading to considerable water damage and making it unlivable. Innocente sold it for $500 to someone who planned to use it for a hunting camp.