Ex-NBA player's mom won't be getting impounded car
DANVILLE — The mother of former basketball star Keon Clark won't be getting behind the wheel of the sports car he was arrested for driving anytime soon, despite her legal efforts to get it returned.
Cynthia Brown of Danville appealed a Vermilion County judge's ruling that a 2008 Dodge Challenger — which was impounded upon Clark's May 28, 2013, traffic arrest and which she claimed to own — was subject to forfeiture.
However, the Fourth District Appellate Court determined that Brown didn't prove her claims and upheld Associate Judge Mark Goodwin's decision.
Clark, a first-round pick in the 1998 NBA draft, is serving an eight-year sentence at the Jacksonville Correctional Center for unlawful possession/use of a firearm by a felon and aggravated driving under the influence/license suspended or revoked from a 2012 case and a 2013 case in Vermilion County.
The 39-year-old Danville native's projected parole date is July 18, 2017.
According to the opinion, Vermilion County sheriff's deputy Brad Norton stopped the car for squealing tires on Main and Logan streets in Danville in May 2013. He arrested Clark, the driver and sole occupant, for driving on a revoked license.
Clark's license was revoked after he was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol.
During a forfeiture hearing in September 2013, Norton testified that he'd stopped Clark for speeding in the same car in 2010. He also testified that at the 2013 stop, he noticed the car appeared to have new wheels and a custom paint job that included black striping and the word "Tree." He also testified that Clark asked to wait with the car to ensure it wasn't damaged while being loaded onto a tow truck.
Sheriff's Investigator Bill Hurt testified that he met with Clark at the towing company so Clark could retrieve golf clubs, shoes, cologne and recently purchased Polo shirts from the car. As Clark was leaving, Hurt said, he overheard him telling the employee to "please take care of my baby."
Eric Millis, a local drug enforcement task force member, testified that he worked at Harrison Club Golf Course, where Clark golfed regularly. He recalled seeing Clark arrive in the car with various people dropping him off. He also testified that as a task force member, he executed a search warrant at Clark's house and took a picture of a golf bag with the name Keon "Tree" Clark.
The defense attorney moved for a directed verdict, arguing the state failed to prove that the car was used in the commission of an offense because it didn't present evidence to show Clark was driving on "a highway."
Brown also testified that Clark gave her the car in spring 2011 as a gift; the title was in her name; she kept both sets of keys; and, while she allowed others to drive Clark around so she wouldn't have to, she never gave her son permission to drive it because she knew he didn't have a license.
She said she had the name "Tree" painted on it because she was proud of her son, and she admitted that it was parked at Clark's house "75 percent of the time" because she didn't have room for it in her garage.
Goodwin denied the request for a directed verdict. He ruled that the car could be forfeited because it was in Clark's control at the time of the stop. He also said Brown didn't prove she was the owner of the car, despite having her name on the title, and that she should've known that Clark "might in fact get possession from his friends" and drive because of his "extensive history of having no license and having run-ins with the law."
Brown's appeal stated that Goodwin erred in his ruling and should've granted the directed verdict. She also claimed she presented sufficient evidence to show she couldn't have known Clark would drive the car.
In the opinion, the appellate court agreed the state failed to present evidence showing Clark was driving on a highway, but pointed out that Goodwin noted Main Street, where Clark was stopped, is "a public street," and that Norton testified the stop occurred on a highway.