Kansas Couple Grows Vegetables Indoors, Raided for Marijuana, Sues

Kansas Couple Grows Vegetables Indoors, Raided for Marijuana, Sues

LEAWOOD, KS — Two former CIA employees whose Kansas 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 in the upscale Kansas City suburb of Leawood 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.

April 20 long has been used by the marijuana community to celebrate the cannabis plant, 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.”

“If this can happen to us and we are educated and have reasonable resources, how does somebody who maybe hasn’t led a perfect life supposed to be free in this country?” Adlynn Harte said in an interview Friday.

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 bulletproof vests pounded on the door of their home around 7:30 a.m. last April 20.

“It was just like on the cops TV shows,” Robert Harte told The Associated Press. “It was like `Zero Dark Thirty’ ready to storm the compound.”

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.”

Harte said he built the hydroponic garden with his son a couple of years ago. He said they didn’t use the powerful light bulbs that are sometimes used to grow marijuana and that the family’s electricity usage didn’t change dramatically. Changes in utility usage can sometimes lead authorities to such operations.

When law enforcement arrived, the family had just six plants – three tomato plants, one melon plant and two butternut squash plants – growing in the basement, Harte said.

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.

Leawood City Administrator Scott Lambers said Friday that he couldn’t comment on pending litigation. The sheriff’s office also had no comment.

“Obviously with an ongoing lawsuit we are not able to talk about any details of it until it’s been played out in court,” said Johnson County Deputy Tom Erickson.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jay.breese.7 Jay Breese

    Looks like Leawood Police and Johnson County Sheriff just kicked in the wrong door and messed with the wrong people. You don’t go mess with ex-CIA like that and not get a black eye. Three cheers for the victims and I wish them the best in this lawsuit. It’s got some power behind it and I think it’s going to put some people in the hotseat.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000431359215 Daniel Joseph Smelko

    Welcome to Amerika…

  • Mike

    Another odious example of how the “drug war” acts to limit the rights of all Americans. This includes people who would never smoke weed or commit any other illegal act. The people who voted this sorta of crap into law knew what they were doing. The press does, too. It’s time that ALL Americans start asking where the Constitution was last seen and in whose company. She’s being held against her will. The evidence of her abuse is right before our eyes.

    Americans are willing to defend their country and our freedoms, but why should anyone lay down their life to defend the misguided and abusive “drug war”?

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  • confused

    why aren’t they looking for meth labs

    • GhettO1stamendment

      Good question, meth labs have processes to make the crap within minutes and it takes 3-5 months to grow natural kind. maybe the meth heads are winning, and if this is exposed, than the government will have to admit the wasted funds for a “plant” when the evil is the chemist, and not the horticulturist.

      • appliance kid

        If they wanted to shut down meth labs they would have no further to look than Pharm giant Abbot Labs, one of the worlds biggest producers of Methamphetamine,(trade name Desoxyn).Methamphetamine is a schedule 2 drug by the way.Cannabis is a schedule 1 “drug”.

  • jojo

    who put surveillance on them? ok—who did this couple piss off?

  • Happy dude

    America-home of the brave and home of the free….Yeeaaaah right.I was raised in a communist country and let me tell you-where you guys are heading on right now is what you fought back in the days.that was the game before right-which system is better.And everyone was like-uuuuuuuuuuuu kill communists.Well,you are getting there slowly but surely :).And this bring a smile to my face as I am typing this down.Oh,one more thing,the difference will be that during the communism period in my country EVERYONE had a home and job for years to come but with AMERICA going into a dictatorship like it was in our country’s……..well a lot of you WILL be left behind.No home,no job,no health care,no education.You see,we had all this,and the dictatorship as well but, strangely enough,there are still,23 Years later,a HUGE number of people who want it back.Makes you wonder,you know.The point is-YOU ARE BECOMING THE THING YOU FOUGHT BEFORE.With the differences I mentioned.So ENJOY :)

  • GhettO1stamendment

    Seems as if records from a grow store some how got into the hands of law enforcement, or what I notice sometimes, are unmarked police cars sitting across the street of grow stores taking plate numbers of vehicles. Any who, like this couple that worked for the government or many who has defended the constitution, this country won’t allow the freedom to be happy after making so-many people happy to not have to do shit for this country. Just hope they don’t start raiding people who have done dirty work for the (U.S. Government) they may tell more to the public than the government wants to be told. However the last I knew buying grow supplies has nothing to do with being illegal, but gathering or submitting bogus information for search and seizure is an infraction of constitutional rights (fourth Amendment) and is cause for civil issues.

  • Shannon jay

    That shows how much the cops really knew about the ppl they raided. They didn’t even check there employment they did no research on the family. They just assumed that the grow op was for pot. Cops do what they want they run around like they are god. I don’t agree with there pay I think they should make more for what they do for us. but they do act like they can do whatever they want and i’m glad the family has a lawsuit and making it public. I live in OK and pot here is a felony and I think that is so dumb. I dont even smoke pot

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681206122 Dave Suchy

    this is why I wont buy indoor growing supplies from local retailers…let me guess they bought supplies from a small store ran by a few cleancut individuals aka a sting operation.

  • MissV

    When you work for the government, you have no problem trampling on other peoples rights. It honestly serves you right for all the harm to other you have caused. I have no sympathy for Spooks. How does it feel when it happens to you?

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