Alabama's attorney general has agreed to release more than $200,000 seized from the brother of Jefferson County's sheriff after a federal judge criticized the state's "misleading" attempt to link it to an illegal gambling operation.
Attorney General Steve Marshall's office in July sought to seize a bank account it said was connected to a gambling operation in Bessemer called Brighton Ventures. The bank account was frozen as a result of the civil asset forfeiture petition filed in state court.
Bruce Pettway filed a federal lawsuit seeking to unfreeze the money, saying the state's action was both unlawful and politically motivated.
His brother, Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway, and Marshall have feuded over gambling enforcement in the county.
Bruce Pettway said the Bessemer bingo operation did pay his company $15,500 for consulting work, but the state froze the entire $240,000 in his account.
U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre ruled Thursday that Pettway's lawsuit could proceed. The judge criticized several parts of the state's attempt to seize the funds. Bowdre said Pettway made a plausible argument that the forfeiture action was brought in "bad faith."
"The court specially notes the state's misleading forfeiture petition, which appears to insinuate that the account and the $240,000 sought to be forfeited belong to Brighton Ventures, not plaintiff," the judge wrote.
The state on Friday changed its forfeiture petition in state court and said it is only trying to seize the $15,500 while not making a claim on the rest of the account.
U.W. Clemon, Bruce Pettway's attorney, said Monday that the remainder of the account has been unfrozen.
Marshall's office declined to comment on the accusations raised in Bruce Pettway's lawsuit.