A Kansas couple — both of whom are former employees of the Central Intelligence Agency — are suing after their home was raided for marijuana, possibly because they had bought indoor growing supplies to raise vegetables.
The raid came as part of a two-state drug sweep last April, and Robert and Adlynne Harte sued this week to get more information about why sheriff’s deputies raided their home in the affluent Kansas City suburb of Leawood last April 20, reports The Associated Press.
The April 20, 2012 “drug sweep” was part of Operation Constant Gardener, and was conducted by agencies in Kansas and Missouri. Seized in the sweep were marijuana plants, dried cannabis, guns, growing equipment, and cash from several locations.
The date of April 20 (4-20) is celebrated by the cannabis community, and more recently has become a favored date for law enforcement raids and crackdowns.
The Hartes’ 1,825-square-foot split level was targeted because they had bought hydroponic equipment to grow tomatoes and squash in their basement, suspects their attorney, Cheryl Pilate.
“With little or no evidence of any illegal activity, law enforcement officers make the assumption that shoppers at the store are potential marijuana growers, even though the stores are most commonly frequented by backyard gardeners who grow organically or start seedlings indoors,” the Hartes’ lawsuit states.The suit was filed by the couple this week under the Kansas Open Records Act; it came after Johnson County and Leawood both denied their initial records requests, with Leawood claiming it had “no relevant records.”
The public has an interest in knowing whether the sheriff’s department’s participation in the raids was “based on a well-founded belief of marijuana use and cultivation at the targeted address, or whether the raids primarily served a publicity purpose,” according to the lawsuit.
Addie and Robert Harte and their two children, a 7-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son, were “shocked and frightened” when deputies with assault rifles and bullet-proof vests raided their home at about 7:30 a.m., last April 20.The couple were told during the sweep that they had “been under surveillance” for months, but the couple “know of no basis for conducting such surveillance, nor do they beliee such surveillance would have produced any facts supporting the issuance of a search warrant.”
Not content to terrorize the family which searching for non-existent marijuana, the deputies “made rude comments,” according to the suit, and implied the couple’s 13-year-old son was using cannabis.
They even brought in a drug-sniffing dog, but the clueless deputies finally left after providing a receipt simply stating, “No items taken.”
Attorney Pilate said no one in the Harte family uses illegal drugs, and no charges were filed. The lawsuit notes that Adlynn Harte, who now works for a financial planning firm, and Robert Harte, who cares for the children, were each required to pass rigorous background checks for their previous jobs at the CIA in Washington, D.C.
Any details obtained as a result of the open records suit might be used in a federal civil rights lawsuit, according to Pilate.
“You can’t go into people’s homes and conduct searches without probable cause,” Pilate said.