Jury: No money for Leawood couple mistakenly targeted in police drug raid

Robert Harte
Robert Harte

A Leawood couple who were mistakenly targeted in a 2012 police drug raid have lost their lawsuit against Johnson County.

A federal court jury late Tuesday afternoon found that Adlynn and Robert Harte were not entitled to any monetary damages as a result of the raid by deputies with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office.

They maintained in the lawsuit that some deputies lied to a judge to obtain a warrant for the search of the Hartes’ home.

In a written statement released by their attorneys after the verdict, the Hartes said they and their children were grateful that they had the opportunity to tell their story to a jury, and that they intend to appeal.

“Although they are understandably disappointed in the outcome, they know that standing up for their rights as citizens was important — not only for themselves and their family, but also to preserve the vitality of the Fourth Amendment for all citizens,” their attorneys said in their statement. “They will never forget the day of the raid, and they believe their speaking out has helped to bring about positive change in Kansas’ open records law and in police practices.”

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An attorney for the sheriff’s office also released a written statement.

“On behalf of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and the deputies we thank the jury for their service,” said Lawrence Ferree. “The Hartes had their day in court. The system worked. Hopefully the Hartes and the deputies can put this behind them and move forward.”

The Hartes were targeted for the search after a trip to a hydroponics gardening store drew the attention of law enforcement officers.

Deputies then took trash bags from outside the couple’s home that contained brewed loose tea. Deputies said that field testing of the tea registered positive for marijuana.

The information was used to establish probable cause for a judge to issue a search warrant.

But it was never submitted to a laboratory for more conclusive testing before the raid.

Officers armed with assault rifles conducted the raid on the couple’s home while their children, a seventh-grader and a kindergartner, were present.

The raid was timed to coincide with a planned press conference about the effort to fight marijuana trafficking.

But after a 2 1/2-hour search by deputies and a trained dog, all they found were the tomato plants the family was growing with the hydroponic equipment.

They filed suit in in 2013, but a federal judge dismissed the case in 2015.

The Hartes appealed and last July, a federal appeals court panel reinstated the suit on the issue of whether deputies lied about the test results in order to get the search warrant.

The Hartes contended that the deputies lied, making the warrant invalid and the search of their home unconstitutional.

Tony Rizzo: 816-234-4435, @trizzkc