County of Ventura, State of California

March 31, 1993


FROM: KEVIN G. DE NOCE [original initialed KGDN]



Following the release of our report on March 30, 1993, regarding the death of Donald Scott, significant public concern has focused on the fact that at least one of the motivating factors in obtaining the search warrant was to forfeit the Trail"s End Ranch. The basis for our opinion regarding the apparent forfeiture motive on the part of the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department, and in particular, Deputy Sheriff Gary Spencer, is set forth on pages 15-16 and 34-35 of our report.

Prior to the execution of the search warrant, law enforcement officers involved in the search warrant discussed the possibility of seizing and forfeiting the Trail"s End Ranch. National Park Service Ranger Tim Simonds states that, prior to serving the search warrant, a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff stated that the ranch would be seized if they found 14 or more plants growing on the grounds. Additionally, according to Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement Agent Greg McClung, someone at the briefing said that they would look into seizing the property if marijuana plants were found. Two deputies from the Angeles County Sheriffs Department Forfeiture Unit (Donna Copplin and Joyce Joblonsky) participated in the execution of the search warrant. Their assigned duty is to seize and forfeit assets and property related to narcotics violations.

Additional evidence which was not included in our report but released to Los Angeles County Sheriff Block and select others as part of the investigation file supports the conclusion that forfeiture of the property was at least one of the motivating factors for obtaining the search warrant. On September 22, 1992, at a briefing conducted by the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department regarding the investigation of the Trail"s End Ranch, officers present received documents which included a property appraisal statement of the Trail"s End Ranch and a parcel map of the area. Both of these documents are attached. DEA Special Agent Charles A Stowell, who, made the aerial flyover made a notation on the parcel map indicating that the property encompassed 200 acres and that 80 acres "in the area" had recently sold for $800,000.

We can find no reason why law enforcement officers who were investigating suspected narcotics violations would have any interest in the value of the Trail"s End Ranch or the value of property sold in the same area other than if they, had a motive to forfeit that property. As discussed in our report, although there may be other explanations for this information,, it is our opinion that the most reasonable explanation is that the. law enforcement officers involved in the preparation of the search warrant were motivated, in part, by a desire to forfeit a valuable piece of property.

[end letter]

Return to Report on the Death of Donald Scott