A Leawood couple filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday over a 2012 “SWAT-style” home raid by heavily armed sheriff’s deputies who wrongly believed the couple were growing marijuana.
Adlynn and Robert Harte say in the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., that the actions of deputies from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office violated their constitutional rights and inflicted “humiliation, embarrassment and emotional distress.”
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They filed the suit against the Johnson County Board of Commissioners, Sheriff Frank Denning and seven deputies involved in the raid. It seeks $7 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
According to the suit, the Hartes and their two children “were intimidated, accused, traumatized and held under armed guard” for more than two hours while deputies searched their home during the early morning raid.
The suit says the Hartes were targeted after Robert Harte had been seen with the Hartes’ children leaving a store that sold hydroponic gardening equipment. Deputies subsequently searched the couple’s household trash and found discarded vegetable material, which actually was loose tea leaves, according to the suit.
“Neither Bob Harte nor Addie Harte has ever used any type of illegal drugs or associated with anyone involved with drug activity,” their attorneys, Cheryl Pilate and Melanie Morgan, wrote in the suit. “What they did do was attempt to grow a few vegetable plants in an indoor hydroponic garden. Also, Addie Harte liked to brew her favorite teas using loose tea leaves, which she discarded in the kitchen trash.”
A county commission spokeswoman said the commission had no comment on the suit. An attorney for the sheriff’s office said he would not comment on pending litigation.
In a written statement released through their attorneys, the Hartes said the incident “changed our lives profoundly.”
“We hope that our suit leads to an examination of reckless and unjustified law enforcement practices and helps to bring about much-needed reform,” they said. “While we greatly respect and support law enforcement, we strongly believe that such aggressive, intrusive and expensive techniques must be reserved for situations where their use is clearly merited.”