A Kansas couple will finally see their day in court after years of rulings and appeals stemming from a 2012 SWAT-like raid that only turned up some tomato plants and loose leaf tea.
Some of the scarring memories for the family from the raid:
- The father was forced to the floor, face-down and shirtless
- Officers searched the house for two and a half hours
- The Harte children were detained in the living room under armed guard
- Drug sniffing dogs
Previously, Johnson County Sheriff Frank Denning and seven sheriff’s deputies were sued by homeowners Robert and Adlynn Harte, both retired CIA agents. A federal judge threw out the case in December of 2015.
Now, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has reversed the ruling - allowing the couple's claims against the sheriff and his deputies to stand.
One of the most colorful opinions came from 10th circuit Judge Carlos F. Lucero:
“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, bulletproof vests, and assault rifles. Perhaps the officers will intentionally conduct the terrifying raid while your children are home, and keep the entire family under armed guard for two and a half hours while concerned residents of your quiet, family-oriented neighborhood wonder what nefarious crime you have committed..."
The 2012 raid happened on the stoner holiday of April 20th. Apparently, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office had conducted a big multi-agency raid on indoor marijuana growers and was all too willing to act on any tips. So, according to KCUR news, when the sheriff’s office received the Hartes' name based on the single instance he observed of Robert Harte and his children patronizing the garden store - they decided to enter the home, guns blazing.
The couple is accusing the law enforcement officers of violating their Fourth Amendment rights. As the family attorney said, "The court's opinions recount the details leading up to and surrounding the frightening raid on the home of a wholly innocent family that had done nothing more than shop at a garden store and discard loose tea leaves in the trash."