8 months, 2 weeks ago
Two former CIA employees whose Leawood home was fruitlessly searched for marijuana during a two-state drug sweep claim they were illegally targeted, possibly because they had bought indoor growing supplies to raise vegetables.
Adlynn and Robert Harte sued this week to get more information about why sheriff’s deputies searched their home last April 20 as part of Operation Constant Gardener — a sweep conducted by agencies in Kansas and Missouri that netted marijuana plants, processed marijuana, guns, growing paraphernalia and cash from several other locations.
The date of April 20 long has been used by marijuana enthusiasts to celebrate the illegal drug and more recently by law enforcement for raids and crackdowns. But the Hartes’ attorney, Cheryl Pilate, said she suspects the couple’s 1,825-square-foot split level was targeted because they had bought hydroponic equipment to grow a small number of tomatoes and squash plants in their basement.
“With little or no other 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 couple’s lawsuit says.
The couple filed the suit this week under the Kansas Open Records Act after Johnson County and Leawood denied their initial records requests, with Leawood saying it had no relevant records. The Hartes say 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 addresses, or whether the raids primarily served a publicity purpose.”
The suit filed in Johnson County District Court said the couple and their two children — a 7-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son — were “shocked and frightened” when deputies armed with assault rifles and wearing bullet proof vests pounded on the door of their home around 7:30 a.m. last April 20.
During the sweep, the court filing said, the Hartes were told they had been under surveillance for months, but the couple “know of no basis for conducting such surveillance, nor do they believe such surveillance would have produced any facts supporting the issuance of a search warrant.” The suit also said deputies “made rude comments” and implied their son was using marijuana.
A drug-sniffing dog was brought in to help, but deputies ultimately left after providing a receipt stating, “No items taken.”
Pilate said no one in the Harte family uses illegal drugs and no charges were filed. The lawsuit noted Adlynn Harte, who works for a financial planning firm, and Robert Harte, who cares for the couple’s children, each were required to pass rigorous background checks for their previous jobs working for the CIA in Washington, D.C. Pilate said she couldn’t provide any other details about their CIA employment.
Pilate said any details gleaned from the open records suit could be used in a future federal civil rights lawsuit.
“You can’t go into people’s homes and conduct searches without probable cause,” Pilate said.
No, you’re not supposed to be able to do this, but it happens every day in America with our new militarized police state.
We might be tempted to lampoon the stupidity of searching a home because of purchases of hydroponic equipment, but however stupid such an approach is, this would miss the point. The police were also likely monitoring their electricity usage and perhaps even used drones or other aircraft with heat sensors.
There are many sad aspects to this raid, not the least of which is the fact that the SWAT team members, who made rude comments during the raid, probably aren’t suited even to shovel gravel for a living, much less wield assault rifles against citizens.
But another sad aspect of this is there was an easier and less dangerous way to keep from pointing weapons at people. You (uniformed officers) wait until everyone is out of the house, contact the owner to meet you at the door to the house, have him open the front door with his key, and search the house with no one in it if you’re afraid of losing evidence. The SWAT team stays home. But that way SWAT team soldier-boys wouldn’t be able to wear their tacticool equipment and go around saying mean things to people inside their own home. It’s not nearly as sexy, so it doesn’t appeal to the police.
Perhaps I’m wrong about the SWAT team members and there was at least one of them who said something like this: “Men, it’s dumb. It’s the wrong thing to do. We’ll all look like chumps if we do this. We will end up pointing our weapons at people and we may even kill someone since we are escalating the situation with these tactics. Let’s find a safer way to do this.”
If so, you know how to reach me. I’ll issue an apology to the SWAT team member who told his superiors to stand down. I await your mail.
But by far the saddest part of the whole affair is the fact that a judge signed a warrant to do this when he or she knew that there was a safer way. So to the judge I have a question. When did you sell your soul on the altar of convenience and desire to be loved by the prosecutors? How long have you been signing these unconstitutional orders?