Baldwin DA’s Office asks judge to reverse his ruling ordering Sheriff’s Office to return Camaro

This 1968 Chevrolet Camaro is the subject of a legal battle between Baldwin County resident...
This 1968 Chevrolet Camaro is the subject of a legal battle between Baldwin County resident Thomas Hadley and the District Attorney's Office.(Courtesy Jason Hadley)
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 11:56 AM CDT
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BAY MINETTE, Ala. (WALA) - Baldwin County District Attorney Robert Wilters and Sheriff Hoss Mack have asked a judge to change his ruling compelling the Sheriff’s Office to return a car that deputies seized earlier this month.

In that ruling, Presiding Baldwin County Circuit Judge Clark Stankoski concluded the Sheriff’s Office took Thomas Hadley’s 1968 Chevrolet Camaro through an “extra-judicial action.” The joint filing by the Sheriff’s Office and the DA’s Office challenges that.

“In terms of reconsideration, the Defendants assert that the property was not seized by extra-judicial action,” the filing states. “Rather, the vehicle was seized through a lawfully granted search warrant.”

On the basis of that search warrant, issued by a different judge, deputies took the Camaro owned by Rabun resident Thomas Hadley and gave it to a Kansas man who reported it stolen in 2003. But Hadley’s lawyer maintains that only one piece of the rebuilt car came from the Kansas vehicle. The Vehicle Identification Number from the Kansas car does not match the other vehicle numbers on the Camaro.

What’s more, Hadley’s lawyer argued, the warrant was not valid because the five-year window for prosecuting a receiving stolen property offense long since had passed.

The Thursday filing by the DA’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office seeks “clarification” from Stankoski about whether he found that the search warrant “was granted illegally.”

The filing also asserts that the Attorney General’s Office, then entity responsible for defending the state, was not named in the civil complaint.

“Undersigned counsel recollects that this Court agreed that the vehicle in question had been stolen,” attorney Kristi Hagood wrote. “There was evidence that the Plaintiff had been made aware of the fact that this was a stolen vehicle that he was retaining. Based upon Plaintiff’s statements to law enforcement, there was evidence that Plaintiff was not going to turn over the stolen vehicle unless he was paid money for it.”

Hagood wrote that the ruling could impact future cases.

“The current ruling sets a precedent wherein law enforcement obtaining a valid search warrant for the return of stolen property to victims will no longer be sufficient to seize stolen property so that it may be returned to the rightful owner,” she wrote.

Based upon these facts, the search warrant was granted properly, and the execution of a valid search warrant is not an illegal seizure.”