On September 20, 2017 Gilbert “Toby” Curtsinger, the central figure in what has been dubbed “PappyGate”, entered a guilty plea signaling that the end is near for the case. While the theft of the Pappy Van Winkle helped this case gain its notoriety, Curtsinger and his co-defendants were also accused stealing bourbon from Wild Turkey. Eight co-defendants have pleaded guilty and only Mark Sean a truck driver for Wild Turkey, who is accused of helping Curtsinger divert shipments, case is still pending. However, all of the co-defendants including Curtsinger has agree as part of their plea agreements to testify against Sean.
So as the case winds down many news outlets and bourbon commentators have speculated that the Bourbon seized in thecase may have to be destroyed. However, this is clearly not the case and a clear path to preserving the bourbon is set forth in Kentucky Revised Statute § 500.090 (4) & (7). According to the revised statute, “The trial court shall remit the forfeiture of property when the lawful claimant: (a) Asserts his or her claim before disposition of the property pursuant to this section; (b) Establishes his or her legal interest in the property; and (c) Establishes that the unlawful use of the property was without his or her knowledge and consent.”
Certainly, in this case both Buffalo Trace/Sazerac and Wild Turkey/Campari, from which the bourbon was stolen will assert their claim and there can be no doubt as to their legal interest in the property. Furthermore, I am sure the Sazerac and Campari were in fact true victims of a theft.
Lastly, KRS § 500.090 (7) requires, “. . . the trial court to determine if a lawful owner or claimant to the property has been identified or is identifiable.” So while the news of bottles rare Pappy Van Winkle and continuously aging Wild Turkey possibly being destroyed is a headline grabber, the actually reality of that happening is remote.
So after all sensational headlines, moaning and gnashing of teeth, I cannot image that both Sazerac and Wild Turkey would not jump at the chance to reclaim their stolen property and seizing up on the opportunity to use this event to promote a special release. Especially, Wild Turkey/Campari which has barrel of aging whiskey sitting in the evidence room. The possible promotions are endless. . . . . .
So that's how I see it. . . . be on the look out for Wild Turkey's Stolen and then Forgiven a beautiful 12yr old bourbon that was aged in the sheriff evidence locker. . . . . .
****Below is the full text of the pertinent Kentucky Revised Statutes
KRS § 500.090 Forfeiture
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(4) The trial court shall remit the forfeiture of property when the lawful claimant:
(a) Asserts his or her claim before disposition of the property pursuant to this section;
(b) Establishes his or her legal interest in the property; and
(c) Establishes that the unlawful use of the property was without his or her knowledge and consent. This subsection shall not apply to a lienholder of record when the trial court elects to dispose of the property pursuant to subsection (1)(b) of this section.
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(7) Before forfeiture of any property under this section, it shall be the duty of the trial court to determine if a lawful owner or claimant to the property has been identified or is identifiable. If a lawful owner or claimant has been identified or is identifiable, the court shall notify the owner or claimant that the property is being held and specify a reasonable period of time during which the claim may be made or may, in lieu thereof, order the return of the property to the lawful owner or claimant. If the lawful owner or claimant does not assert his or her claim to the property after notification or if he or she renounces his or her claim to the property, the property shall be disposed of as provided in this section. It shall be the duty of all peace officers and other public officers or officials having knowledge of the lawful owner or claimant of property subject to forfeiture to report the same to the trial court before the act of forfeiture occurs.