WICHITA, Kan. — A suburban Kansas City couple is not entitled to monetary damages after Johnson County officers raided their home in an unsuccessful search for marijuana that was based on tea leaves found in their garbage, a federal court jury ruled.
Adlynn and Robert Harte of Leawood sued Johnson County and several law enforcement officials after the 2012 raid. They were seeking millions of dollars in compensation, arguing in the lawsuit that deputies lied to get the warrant used to search their home.
A federal court jury on Tuesday found that the Hartes were not entitled to any monetary damages, The Kansas City Star reported.
The Hartes, who are both former CIA agents, said in a statement released by their attorneys that they were grateful for the chance to tell their story to a jury. They said they will 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.
An attorney for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office said the Hartes had their day in court and “the system worked.”
“Hopefully the Hartes and the deputies can put this behind them and move forward,” said attorney Lawrence Ferree.
Law enforcement officials focused on the Hartes after Robert Harte and his children were seen leaving a hydroponics gardening store, which sell lights and other items that are sometimes used to grow marijuana. Deputies took trash bags from outside the couple’s home and said brewed loose tea leaves in the bags registered positive for marijuana. But the leaves were never submitted to a laboratory for more conclusive testing.
Officers armed with assault rifles raided the couple’s home on April 20, 2012. That date is important because April 20 is an unofficial holiday every year for cannabis users. On April 20, 2012, law enforcement authorities planned a series of marijuana raids dubbed “Operation Constant Gardener” capped by a news conference.
The Hartes sued in 2013, seeking damages for severe emotional distress. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2015 but it was reinstated by a federal appeals court panel last July, based on the issue of whether deputies lied about the test results in order to get the search warrant.
The defendants claimed the search was valid and they were legally justified in detaining the Hartes during the 2.5 hours that the search was ongoing.
The couple’s efforts to determine why the raid was conducted prompted Kansas lawmakers to make it easier for the public to access police investigative records.
Information from: The Kansas City Star