Strippers who are good at their jobs are know to get the bag. Now, Miami-Dade police must give one Club Cheetah dancer back close to $20,000 in seized funds, after it was ruled that the search that led to the discovery of the money was deemed illegal by the courts.
It all started on May 25, when 33-year-old Ras Cates was out for a drive with his 20-year-old wife and stripper, Lizmixell Batista. According to the Miami Herald, the couple was pulled over after allegedly cutting off a patrol vehicle in the West Little River neighborhood in Miami. After a search of the vehicle (which the driver, Cates, did not consent to), police found six guns, including three assault-style rifles, suspected cannabis oil, codeine syrup without a valid prescription and the cash, which amounted to $19,934. According to police body camera footage, when the cops found the cash and asked about it, Batista responded, “I was supposed to go the bank to deposit the money. We got bills to pay, sweetie.”
Cates and Batista were charged with numerous felony charges, including armed drug dealing. Representatives from the department boasted about the arrest on TV news. “It’s amazing how something as simple as a traffic stop can lead us to crack a lot of cases,” said a police spokesperson on the local CBS News station. “A lot of serial killers are behind bars because of traffic stops.”
However, a vigorous legal defense team refuted the charges immediately. They proved that the guns belonged to Cates legally and he had a valid concealed weapons permit and that the police did not have permission to legally search the trunk of the car. Attorney Jude Faccidomo expounded on his disgust with the department saying, “What is most disturbing is that immediately following the arrest, the department went on TV and engaged in incendiary speculation without knowing the facts or even acknowledging the rampant violations of my clients’ constitutional rights.”
The defense also brought forth Haley Heath, one of Batista’s co-workers at the strip club, to testify that her colleague earned “significant cash tips” while working in the club. “I felt that the glitter on the seized cash was compelling evidence, but apparently the police department disagreed,” said Faccidomo.
Prosecutors dropped the charges against Cates and Batista. “Search of the trunk was illegal,” wrote prosecutor Johnathan Nobile. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Rodney Smith ruled that there was no probably cause for the cops to confiscate the cash and ordered it returned to the couple. The department also agreed to pay the couple’s lawyer fees to the tune of $3,000. Lawyers are still trying to get Cates’ guns back.