A federal trial that begins Monday will focus on whether police lied about the results of tests on discarded tea leaves found in a Kansas couple’s trash to get a search warrant ahead of a SWAT-style raid on their home in search of marijuana.
Robert and Adlynn Harte are seeking $5 million for economic losses, emotional pain, distress and humiliation and an additional $2 million in punitive damages in response to the 2012 raid on their Leawood home.
Authorities targeted the Hartes, both former CIA employees, after seeing Robert Harte and his two children leaving a store that sold hydroponic gardening equipment, which is sometimes used to grow marijuana. Johnson County sheriff’s deputies found the brewed tea leaves in trash they collected from a curbside receptacle outside their home. An affidavit claimed field tests indicated the leaves were marijuana.
Officers armed with assault rifles raided the couple’s home on April 20, 2012. The calendar day is significant because April 20 marks an annual celebration among users of all things cannabis. On that day in Kansas, law enforcement authorities planned a series of marijuana raids dubbed “Operation Constant Gardener” capped by a news conference. But at the Hartes’ house, the swat team found only some scrawny vegetable plants the family was growing indoors. The Hartes sued Johnson County officials in 2013.
A federal judge dismissed the Hartes’ lawsuit in 2015, but the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated parts of it in July. Appeals Judge Carlos Lucero called the raid an unjustified government intrusion based on nothing more than junk science, an incompetent investigation and a publicity stunt.
“Law-abiding tea drinkers and gardeners beware: One visit to a garden store and some loose tea leaves in your trash may subject you to an early-morning, SWAT-style raid, complete with battering ram,