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Indoor Gardeners' Home Unfairly Raided

Their only crime was growing a garden in their basement. Authorities raided the home of two former CIA employees in Leawood, Kansas, last year after discovering that the family had purchased hydroponic growing equipment. Officers reportedly suspected that the family was growing marijuana and committing other drug crimes in their home, based on hydroponic equipment purchases from hardware stores and other sources. Now, the couple is seeking legal relief by suing under the Kansas Open Records Act to determine exactly why they were unfairly targeted in this multistate drug bust.

The couple was growing hydroponic squash and tomatoes in their basement. The couple reportedly began pursuing hydroponic gardening with their son; hydroponic equipment is often used to start seedlings inside before they can be planted outdoors when the growing season begins.

Leawood authorities initially reported that they did not have any records related to the search of the couple's home. The suspects wanted to find out whether the search by law enforcement officers was honestly based on a reasonable suspicion that the family was growing marijuana. The family contends that the raids were designed to boost the media presence of the department, showing their dedication to the war on drugs.

The family says their 7-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son were unnecessarily traumatized during the experience as deputies with assault rifles stormed their house. At the time of the raid, the family possessed just six vegetable plants that were growing in their basement. Even though authorities claim that the couple was under surveillance for months, the family argues that a thorough investigation would have revealed that they were gardening hobbyists rather than drug dealers.

Information from the open records suit could be used in a federal civil liability claim. Authorities are not permitted to simply raid citizens' homes at a whim; in this case, Kansas police officers may have gone too far. The investigation into the search warrant procedures continues.

Source: New York Daily News, "Kansas couple says they were targeted during drug sweep because of equipment they bought for indoor gardening," March 29, 2013

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