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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

 
What's the matter with Kansas now?

by digby












I hate to pick on the state of Kansas. I lived there for a while when I was a kid and it's a really nice place with really nice people. But damn, something is seriously wrong with the government there. They elect lunatics like Kris Kobach, the anti-immigrant, anti-abortion crusader. And they put up with authoritarian abuses like this:

In April 2012, a Kansas SWAT team raided the home of Robert and Addie Harte, their 7-year-old daughter and their 13-year-old son. The couple, both former CIA analysts, awoke to pounding at the door. When Robert Harte answered, SWAT agents flooded the home. He was told to lie on the floor. When Addie Harte came out to see what was going on, she saw her husband on his stomach as SWAT cop stood over him with a gun. The family was then held at gunpoint for more than two hours while the police searched their home. Though they claimed to be looking for evidence of a major marijuana growing operation, they later stated that they knew within about 20 minutes that they wouldn’t find any such operation. So they switched to search for evidence of “personal use.” They found no evidence of any criminal activity.

The investigation leading to the raid began at least seven months earlier, when Robert Harte and his son went to a gardening store to purchase supplies to grow hydroponic tomatoes for a school project. A state trooper had been positioned in the store parking lot to collect the license plate numbers of customers, compile them into a spreadsheet, then send the spreadsheets to local sheriff’s departments for further investigation. Yes, merely shopping at a gardening store could make you the target of a criminal drug investigation.

They tested some wet "plant material" with some dicey field test and determined it was marijuana. It turned out to be loose leaf tea which the lab said looked nothing at all like marijuana.

They were cleared but told nothing about why they had been targeted and were told the sheriff's office was under no obligation to release any information about the case or tell them what they had used a probably cause. After spending $25,000 to get the information they filed suit. This is what happened:

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge John W. Lungstrum dismissed every one of the Hartes’s claims. Lungstrum found that sending a SWAT team into a home first thing in the morning based on no more than a positive field test and spotting a suspect at a gardening store was not a violation of the Fourth Amendment. He found that the police had probable cause for the search, and that the way the search was conducted did not constitute excessive force. He found that the Hartes had not been defamed by the raid or by the publicity surrounding it. He also ruled that the police were under no obligation to know that drug testing field kits are inaccurate, nor were they obligated to wait for the more accurate lab tests before conducting the SWAT raid. The only way they’d have a claim would be if they could show that the police lied about the results, deliberately manipulated the tests or showed a reckless disregard for the truth — and he ruled that the Hartes had failed to do so.

Keep in mind that this was a ruling for summary judgment. This was not a trial. To dismiss the suit at this stage, Lungstrum needed to view the facts in a light most favorable to the Hartes. And yet he still found that at no point did the police violate the family’s constitutional rights.

He found the police did everything right. They tracked people who were shopping at a gardening store for things that are commonly used to grow vegetables. Then they found some wet loose tea leaves in their garbage and rather than using a legitimate test to see if it was some kind of illegal substance they relied on a dubious method which returned an invalid result. Then they raided an innocent family's home and terrorised the them.

All of this was absolutely fine. No harm done.

Over pot. And a silly PR stunt.

By the way, the people who support this kind of thing also like to talk a lot about freedom and liberty.



Happy New Year everyone!
















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