This is the kind of story that could only happen in a placid, affluent burg like Leawood. In 2012, Adlynn and Robert Harte were growing tomatoes in the basement of their Leawood home. To add to the intrigue, the Hartes were both former CIA agents.
A trip to a hydroponics gardening store drew the attention of local law enforcement officers who would seem to have had too much time on their hands. Johnson County Sheriff’s Office deputies subsequently snatched trash bags from outside the couple’s Leawood home that contained, among other items, brewed loose tea. Deputies claimed that the tea tested positive for marijuana traces. The tests inspired a judge to issue a search warrant.
Armed officers executed that warrant while the couples’ two young children were at home. Authorities timed the raid to coincide with a press conference highlighting a local crackdown on marijuana trafficking.
After a dog-assisted search lasting more than two hours, all that law enforcement was able to find were the tomato plants in the basement that the Hartes were growing with the assistance of the hydroponic technology.
The Hartes filed suit in 2013, contending that the deputies lied in order to get the search warrant. One court threw out the case, and another court reinstated it. This past week, the Hartes got their day in court.
The defense team contended that the the search was legal and valid, that it lasted only a shade over two hours, and that it did not result in $7 million worth of pain and suffering. The jury agreed. After a day of deliberation, they found that the deputies had not lied and that the Hartes were not entitled to monetary damages.
“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,” the Hartes’ 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.”
This would seem like one of those rare cases where the plaintiffs were right to sue, and the jury was right to reject their demands. It also reminds those paying attention that if Kansas City, Missouri, is under-policed, Johnson County may well be over-policed.