held to establish the financial terms of the divorce, the parties agreed that Mrs. Kennedy had a "special
equity" in the beach house; this was largely because, including the funds Mrs. Kennedy had used to repay
her husband for his contributions at the time of purchase, Mrs. Kennedy produced checks totaling more than
$392,412 that she had invested in the property.
Accordingly, Kennedy agreed to transfer any rights he
possessed in the property to her. On September 19, 1995, the state court entered a divorce decree which
adopted the mediation agreement, awarded the Sunset Way property to Mrs. Kennedy because of her agreed
upon special equity in the residence, and dissolved the marriage.
More than a month later on November 30,
1995, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida entered its order forfeiting to the
United States all Kennedy's right, title, and interest in the Sunset Way property.
Under 21 U.S.C. § 853(n)(6), third party petitioners can establish their interest in forfeited property
in only two ways. See United States v. Reckmeyer, 836 F.2d 200, 203 (4th Cir.1987) ("Subsection (n)
provides the only means for third parties to establish their interest in forfeited property."). The statute
If, after the hearing, the court determines that the petitioner has established by a preponderance of
the evidence that—
(A) the petitioner has a legal right, title, or interest in the property, and such right, title, or
interest renders the order of forfeiture invalid in whole or in part because the right, title, or interest
was vested in the petitioner rather than the defendant or was superior to any right, title, or interest
of the defendant at the time of the commission of the acts which gave rise to the forfeiture of the
property under this section; or
In addition to repaying her husband, the district court found that Mrs. Kennedy made 87% of the
mortgage payments, paid the taxes on the property, and took care of most of the maintenance costs.
Through an oversight, the final divorce decree entered on September 19, 1995 did not address the
disposition of the Sunset Way property. The Kennedys brought this omission to the attention of the divorce
court which, on January 2, 1996, corrected its error; the court entered an order, awarding Mrs. Kennedy a
special equity in the house, nunc pro tunc to September 19, 1995. In its findings, the district court
characterized the divorce court's omission as "scrivener's error."