Saturday, August 5, 2017

Oh Those Evil Tomatoes...

...may yet be the undoing of one particular aspect of law enforcement's war against drugs or at least turn into a financial boom for one family and an expensive bust (financial and legal wise) for one police department. Back in 2012, the Johnson County Sheriff's Office reportedly raided the family home the Harte family, the adults in which were reportedly avid tomato growers. It seems that sometime back in 2011, their family van had been observed by police while in a hydroponics store's parking lot. After a seemingly subsequent brief and shoddy (not shotty as it says at the source)investigation, the Sheriff's office obtained a warrant to search for marijuana and raided the Harte's home as part of Operation Constant Gardener. 

That operation evidently begins many of its investigative cases by surveilling the parking lots of hydroponics stores and taking down license plates of those who visit the store. The sheriff's officers apparently had been so confident they would find the illicit drug that they reportedly had scheduled a news conference about this particular raid prior to it taking place. What they found though was a hydroponic garden of tomatoes and not even one tiny bit of the marijuana that they had been so certain they would find.

The Hartes sued for violation of their rights - and if the Hartes are innocent asit seems then who can blame them, except maybe someone working for the government, the government which stands to lose lots of money! Their lawsuit was thrown out of court in 2015 and that decision stated that the officers were immune from prosecution. That all changed in late July of 2017 when there was some relief for the Hartes. A three judge panel (I am guessing a federal appeals court) ruled that their rights were indeed violated and that their lawsuit may proceed. They are seeking 7 million in damages. More at the source.

I was in LE for 32 years and have to say that the initial surveillance was okay under the law. You see someone go into a hydroponics store and come out with what is commonly used to grow marijuana and that is enough to initiate an initial investigation. To me though, this case seemed to go downhill from there (mind you I am basing this completely on the assumed veracity of the article) and less than sufficient investigative work was possibly performed. That may have led to rights violations. I cannot convict the cops without knowing their side and a court of law is the place to convict them (not my blog) and am anxious to hear the outcome of the lawsuit. Just like anyone else, they are innocent until proven guilty. Yet, if the facts in that article are correct without any mitigating factors in favor of the Sheriff's department, then I think they are going to pay big time and possibly have to review and change their investigative tactics.

A hat tip to Peter Q for the link.

All the best,
Glenn B

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