Newsbrief: Damages Sought in Mississippi Raid that Destroyed Innocent Plants 10/17/03

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The Harrison County, Mississippi, Sheriff's Office thought it had scored a big bust last month when it raided a hunting club and destroyed more than 500 suspected marijuana plants. Oops! It turns out the plants were actually kenaf, a plant harvested as a wood substitute and used for deer and other animal feed. And the president of the hunt club, who saw the raid unfolding on television, told Sheriff George Payne Jr. just that before Payne's raiders cut down the innocent herbs.

Now, hunt club president Bucky Waldman wants the county to pay $255,000 for the damage it did. In a demand letter addressed to Harrison County officials, Waltman accused Payne and his agents of negligence, trespassing, invasion of privacy, and defamation. Walton told the Jackson Sun Herald he took the step after the sheriff's office refused to resolve damages caused by the September 8 raid on Boarhog Hunting Club land.

"I want them to fix the road and gate they destroyed, compensate me for my plants, arrest the people that were trespassing and apologize to the hunting clubs," Waltman said. "I think [Payne] made a mistake, and now he doesn't know how to fix it. I've just had my 12th heart surgery. I don't need this stress. I used to be just an old hunting club president," he complained. "Now, people know me as the old dope-grower."

Sheriff Payne had little to say, except "we were assisting the DEA-HIDTA task force on an investigation they were conducting. Everything that was done was done in the interests of public safety." That's more than either the DEA or local HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) had to say. They wouldn't talk to the local paper.

The sheriff had earlier reported that people seen picking leaves from the destroyed plaints had threatened teens cruising the property on four-wheelers. The Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics has done its part to fight the kenaf menace, warning that smoking it can cause illness. But no one has named the law enforcement expert who identified the plant as pot.

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