False drug test prompts fruitless raid of Leawood home

LEAWOOD, Kan. - From an innocent shopping trip to a false drug test, new court documents reveal what triggered a traumatic and fruitless raid of a Leawood family's home.

When we first met Bob and Addie Harte in March, they had no idea why deputies from the Johnson County Sheriff's office had banged on their door in April 2012 looking for marijuana. Their only guess was the hydroponic garden in their basement. The father-son project was for growing tomatoes and squash -- not marijuana.

The Hartes sued to get the police records, and 41 Action News filed a request for the information weeks ago. Those records reveal it all started when a member of the Missouri Highway Patrol spotted Bob Harte at The Green Circle in August 2011.

The owner of the hydroponics store in the River Market isn't happy his customers are being watched.

"Why should they be?" asked Bennie Palmentere. "This isn't a communist country."

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Seven months later in March 2012, that MHP member called the tip into the Johnson County Sheriff's office.  Incident reports and a search warrant affidavit state deputies then spent three early April mornings digging through the Hartes' trash.

The first week they found nothing. But during the second and third weeks, reports say they found wet leaves and stems which "field-tested positive" for marijuana. This led to obtaining the search warrant, which was served April 20, 2012.

Deputies found nothing illegal when they served the search warrant. When the plants in the Hartes' basement tested negative, officials had the plant evidence found in the trash retested, but this time in the Johnson County Sheriff's Office Criminalistics Laboratory.

Lab tests of the plants from the trash came back negative this time. Lab forms state "these are yielding false positive tests from the marijuana field test kits". There had never been marijuana in the Hartes' trash at all.

The Johnson County Sheriff's office declined to comment, citing pending litigation. Bob and Addie Harte released a statement through their attorney:

We have reviewed the materials produced concerning the raid of our home. The facts speak for themselves and are more incriminating of law enforcement than we might have imagined. We cannot understand how the low level of police work, which included using an unreliable marijuana field test, could have permitted a swat-style raid of our home. We have also found out, for the first time, that reliable laboratory testing was done after the raid and proved that there was no marijuana whatsoever in our garbage.

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