The opinion of the court was delivered by: Platt, Chief Judge.
The Government moves for summary judgment pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Claimants Harvey and Helen
Lehrer maintain that they are entitled to rely on the innocent
owner defense and hence summary judgment must be denied. For
the reasons stated below, the Government's motion is granted.
In June, 1988, claimants received a letter from New York
City Councilman Salvatore Albanese regarding narcotics on the
property. After receiving the letter, claimants communicated
with Councilman Albanese and were informed that there were
reports of drugs on the premises and that Gary Lind had been
arrested on the front yard. Councilman Albanese advised
claimants to talk to an attorney. Claimants then communicated
with attorney, Israel Slochowsky, who informed them that based
upon mere allegations they could not go to court to evict the
tenants and that if they did evict the tenants they could be
liable for harassment and wrongful eviction; claimants were
told that "there was nothing they could do."
Claimants then went and spoke to Alicea about his brother
Lind's arrest. Alicea informed them that Lind had a few
"joints on him that he used for recreational purposes."*fn3
Claimants informed Alicea that they did not want that done on
According to claimants, claimants never had any knowledge
that (i) the government was investigating the property, (ii)
raids had taken place on the property, (iii) during the raids,
drugs were recovered on the premises, or (iv) various
occupants had been arrested.
Both the claimants and the government agree that the sole
issue before this Court is the interpretation of the "innocent
owner defense" as set forth in the forfeiture statute,
21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(7), and its applicability to the case at
The "innocent owner defense" as set forth in the forfeiture
statute, 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(7), provides that "no property
shall be forfeited . . . by reason of any act or omission
established by that owner to have been committed or omitted
without the knowledge or consent of the owner."
Claimants relying on a recent Eastern District of New York
decision, United States v. 171-02 Liberty Avenue,
710 F. Supp. 46 (E.D.N.Y. 1989), argue that under the normal canons
of statutory construction, the "innocent owner defense" should
be interpreted as meaning that unless an owner both
knows of the wrong and consents to that wrong, the
property shall not be forfeited. Accord United States v.
6109 Grubb Avenue, 886 F.2d 618 (3rd Cir. 1989). Although
obviously not without merit, in this Court's opinion
claimants' argument must fail.
Moreover, if Congress had intended that proof of lack of
both consent and knowledge be required it would only have had
to prescribe "knowledge" because lack of knowledge necessarily
encompasses lack of consent. Therefore, this Court holds that
the "innocent owner defense" provides that the property shall
be forfeited unless the owner establishes that the illegal act
occurred without either his knowledge or his consent. See
United States v. Four Million, Two Hundred Fifty-Five
Thousand, 762 F.2d 895 (11th Cir. 1985); United
States v. $10,694 U.S. Currency, 828 F.2d 233 (4th Cir.
1987); United States v. 124 East North Avenue, etc.,
651 F. Supp. 1350, 1357 (N.D. Ill. 1987).
The claimants argue that even if the statute is interpreted
as meaning that the owner need only have knowledge or consent
to the act, they are still entitled to the innocent owner
defense because they did not have knowledge of the illegal
acts nor did they consent to the acts. However, far from
establishing this, the proof shows and this Court finds that
claimants most certainly did have knowledge of the illegal
acts. Claimants papers and desposition testimony clearly
establish as a matter of law that claimants had knowledge. For
example, in their papers, they admit ...