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County Will Pay $587,500 To Settle Drug Seizure Lawsuits


OKLAHOMA -- The settlement of three federal civil cases against the office of former Muskogee County District Attorney John David Luton will cost taxpayers more than a half million dollars according to an article published in the Muskogee Phoenix March 14th.


The civil rights cases began as civil racketeering cases in which the plaintiffs said the DA’s office and its Drug Task Force illegally seized, forfeited and sold the plaintiffs’ property. Luton and his chief of staff, Gary Sturm, adamantly defended the office and law officers, claiming the property was connected to drug activity and warranted forfeiture under seizure and forfeiture laws.


Forfeiture laws allow law officers and prosecutors to seize property and money believed used in drug transactions and use it for law enforcement purposes. Opponents of these laws say this creates a temptation for government to disregard property rights.


Robert J. Haupt, the Oklahoma City attorney presiding over the cases, said the civil racketeering settlements were “mutually agreeable.”


Ironically, the issue could have been resolved a few years ago. According to the Muskogee Phoenix, a district judge ordered Luton to repay the plaintiffs a little more than $5,000, but Luton refused.

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