A couple arrested for unlawful cultivation of marijuana and who subsequently was cleared of the charges has filed a federal complaint against law-enforcement agencies over what they say was an illegal raid of their Ramona home in October 2012.
Deborah Little, a cancer survivor and HIV patient, and her husband Dennis, who suffers from a nerve disorder and depression, are seeking damages for a military-style raid conducted by the San Diego Integrated Narcotics Task Force after law-enforcement agencies spotted a plot of pot plants from a sheriff's helicopter in September 2012.
According to the complaint, officers dressed in "military style fatigues and armed with firearms," rammed down the doors, handcuffed the couple, and removed a total of 29 marijuana plants.
As agents and deputies investigated, Deborah Little was forced to sit outside in the cold, despite telling deputies that she had contracted pneumonia months prior. Little also testified that officers refused to allow her to use the restroom and that due to a weakened bladder from radiation treatments she soiled herself and was not allowed to change clothes.
Law-enforcement officers left the property with what they said was over 600 pounds of marijuana. Over the course of the following days, the marijuana was destroyed and the actual weight was never verified.
In court, the couple claimed the marijuana was strictly for personal use; the district attorney's office, in conjunction with U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy, said the couple was growing and selling pot under the guise of medical need.
The court case didn't go well for Dumanis and Duffy. A judge dismissed the charge of cultivation and a jury later acquitted them of possession. Now, the couple looks to hold Dumanis, Duffy, the sheriff's department, and San Diego police chief Shelley Zimmerman accountable.
"This case is an example of a phenomenon that has gained national attention recently: military-style SWAT tactics used in everyday law enforcement," said Nathan Shaman, the attorney representing the Littles in their civil lawsuit.
"More and more we are seeing law enforcement treat our citizens as enemy combatants," continued Shaman. "The Littles' situation provides a stark reminder that even harmless, law-abiding, seriously ill people can be and are terrorized by their own police force. We hope this will send a message to law enforcement that their egregious, unconstitutional behavior will not be tolerated."