|Deborah & Dennis Little had their home raided in 2012, now they’re fighting back|
Two years ago, in September of 2012, a law enforcement helicopter buzzed over the top of Dennis Little’s land in the quiet country town of Ramona, California. One month later, a joint task force comprised of local law enforcement officers and DEA agents kicked down Mr. Little’s door and arrested him and his wife on suspicion of cultivating illegal amounts of marijuana.
In March of 2013, San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis took them to court on the charges, and one full year later, in March of this year, they beat her at her own game and were fully acquitted of all charges by a jury of their peers.
With two years of their lives turned upside down, thousands of dollars lost to lawyers and courts, and a hard reputation to shake in a small town, one might think that the Little’s would be happy to put it all behind them. But they have some justice of their own to attend to first.
The unincorporated town of Ramona, California has a history stretching back well over 100 years, and still has dirt roads that stretch for miles into the foothills of northern San Diego County.
The local sheriff’s blotter typically consists of petty crimes, minor vandalism, and DUIs, but in a town with no mayor, or city council, ultimate power is often ceded to whichever faction is currently taking it.
Anyone who has spent an evening on a patio in Ramona trying to enjoy a serene SoCal sunset has likely had that peaceful vibe interrupted, seven days a week, by low-flying law enforcement helicopters thumping their way through the canyons and mesas in the Valley of the Sun. But it is not escaped convicts or rogue meth labs that they are searching for in those hills, but weed plants, and the consequences when they find some are extremely severe.
The victims and collateral damage in San Diego’s war on weed are depressingly numerous, but none perhaps showcase the absurdity of the resource-wasting battle more so than Dennis and Deborah Little of Ramona, CA.
In September of 2012, one of those daily ghetto bird sorties flew over the Little’s property and authorities onboard reported spotting 99+ plants growing on a 15′ x 60′ plot of garden space below.
Within a month, a militarized raid was conducted on the home, and agents claimed that they seized hundreds of pounds of illegally grown cannabis.
The alleged culprits, however, hardly fit the profile of illegal drug dealers.
Dennis is a kindly looking gentleman. At the age of 66, his silver hair and courteous smile mask a debilitating neuropathy that causes him severe nerve pains that he treats with cannabis as a registered medical marijuana patient under California state laws Prop215 and SB420.
The garden, he says, was his, and was planted in 2011 not for his own ailments so much as those of his wife.
Deborah Little is 61 years old, is currently battling cancer, and has been on AIDS medications for over 20 years. She too has her state-approved recommendation to use cannabis for medicinal purposes, and says she converts the majority of her husband’s garden into easily dosed cannabis-infused edibles to ease their various pains.
Surely the agents who kicked their doors down must have been at least a little ashamed to conduct a Delta Force-style raid on two sick elderly country folks, but what about the alleged “hundreds of pounds” of pot?
The “99+” estimate taken from the sky – the so-called evidence that launched the raid to begin with – turned out to be wildly overblown. When all was said and done, just 29 plants were discovered on the Little’s land, showing various stages of growth.
Likely looking to boost the numbers on what had to be an embarrassing waste of resources and time, agents calculated the overall weight of plants confiscated in the bust with massive soil and root balls still attached to the torn-up plants to arrive at their total weight.
The DEA, who seized the 29 plants and destroyed them offsite, claimed that they had confiscated 640 pounds of weed.
640 pounds from 29 plants…or just over 22 pounds per plant.
Must be some good nutrients in that arid rock-hard Ramona topsoil!
Instead of apologizing and offering to personally replant their cannabis for them, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis instead elected to press felony charges in 2013 for cannabis cultivation and distribution.
The Little’s, with the support of the San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access, fought back in court, and in a monumental decision on March 17th of this year, they were found not guilty of all charges.
The defeat was humiliating for Dumanis and the District Attorney’s office, and should have
|San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis says she busts dealers, not patients|
clearly highlighted to them just how out of touch their militant pursuit of all things cannabis had become.
But just in case it didn’t, the Little’s have decided to have one more day in court. This time on their terms, in the form of a lawsuit against the same officers who so brazenly turned their life over in October of 2012.
The Little’s lawsuit names San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, San Diego County Sherriff Bill Gore, and several members of the San Diego County Integrated Narcotics Task Force. Just how much compensation the Little’s seek will be determined in the court proceedings.
They point to the questionable evidence that led to the initial search warrant being issued, and claim that the law enforcement officers on the scene during the raid used “unreasonable” search tactics, and “excessive force”.
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis may find it easy to dodge this topic when reporters bring it up, but this lawsuit will ensure that at least somebody is held accountable for the injustice served to Deborah and Dennis Little over a simple plant.