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Pennsylvania Cops Abuse Elderly Couple in Raid on Marijuana Plants That Weren't [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #998)
Drug War Issues

A Buffalo Township, Pennsylvania, couple has filed a lawsuit against township police and an insurance company in the wake of a misbegotten drug raid that netted only hibiscus plants.

Edward Cramer, 69, and his wife, Audrey Cramer, 66, were quietly enjoying their golden years this fall when they called their insurance company about a neighbor's tree that had fallen on their property. That's when things started going wacky, as the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.

The insurance company, Nationwide Mutual Insurance, sent its local agent, Jonathan Yeamans, to the Cramer's place, but Yeamans apparently had more than insurance claims on his mind. According to the lawsuit, Yeamans surreptitiously took photos of flowering hibiscus plants in the backyard, then sent them to local police as evidence of an illegal marijuana grow.

The Cramers claim that Yeamans "intentionally photographed the flowering hibiscus plants in such a manner as not to reveal that they had flowers on them so that they would appear to resemble marijuana plants."

Yeaman's photos went to Buffalo Township Officer Jeffrey Sneddon, who claimed to have expertise in identifying marijuana, and who, incorrectly identifying the plants as marijuana, applied for and received a search warrant for the Cramers' property.

And the raid was on! According to the lawsuit, Audrey Cramer was home alone, upstairs and only partially dressed when police arrived around noon on October 7. She went downstairs to open the door, only to be confronted by a dozen or so officers pointing assault rifles at her.

The lead officer, Sgt. Scott Hess, ordered Mrs. Cramer to put her hands up and told her he had a search warrant, but refused to show it to her, the complaint alleges.

Then, "Hess entered the home and went upstairs. Upon returning downstairs, he demanded that (Cramer), a 66-year-old woman, be handcuffed behind her back in a state of partial undress."

Mrs. Cramer asked police if she could put on a pair of pants nearby, but was told "in no uncertain terms," that she could not. She was instead placed under arrest and read her right.

Police then walked her outside the house and left her standing, handcuffed, in her underwear in public for 10 minutes, before police walked her, barefoot, down a gravel driveway to a police car. The suit claims police refused her request to let her put on sandals.

When Mrs. Cramer asked Hess "what on earth is going on," he told her police were searching for marijuana. She explained that the plants in question were hibiscus -- not marijuana -- but Hess, also claiming drug identification expertise, insisted they were indeed pot plants.

She spent the next 4 ½ hours in a "very hot" patrol car, her hands cuffed behind her.

Edward Cramer returned home in the midst of the raid, only to be met by leveled police guns, removed from his car, arrested, and placed in the police car with his wife for the next two hours. According to the lawsuit, Cramer repeatedly asked to show police that the plants were hibiscus, with the flowers clearly in bloom, to no avail.

"Why couldn't the police see what it was?" Al Lindsay, the Cramers' attorney, said in a phone interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Being arrested, for people like this who have no history with crime and no experience with law enforcement, this is an incredibly traumatic experience."

Police released the couple from the patrol car only after an hours-long search failed to turn up any marijuana in the home or the yard. The lawsuit says that Sgt. Hess seized the hibiscus plants even though he admitted he didn't think they were pot plants and labeled them "tall, green, leafy suspected marijuana plants."

While police didn't charge the Cramers with any crimes, the couples' experience was traumatic enough for them to seek medical treatment, and Edward Cramer has been seeing a trauma therapist.

Now, with their lawsuit filed Thursday, the Cramers are seeking justice. The suit, filed in Butler County Court, names Nationwide, Nationwide agent Yeamans, Buffalo Township, and three of its police officers. It alleges police use of excessive force, false arrest, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy.

Neither Buffalo Township nor Nationwide have been willing to comment on the case.

And to add insult to injury, the Cramers got an October 26 letter from Nationwide informing them that marijuana had been found on their property and if they failed to remove the plants, Nationwide would cancel their insurance policy.

The Cramers are seeking "monetary and compensatory damages," as well as attorneys; fees and court costs.

Just another day in the war on plants.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


anon (not verified)

I too was arrested in Ellensburg, Washington in 1992 for Pineapple plants.  My house caught fire, and while the firemen were putting out the house, they found so eiree plants that they didn't know what they were so they called the cops because they might be marijuana--what a laugh, except it cost me 20,000$ to get out of their trap.  After a thourough search, they managed to find a few marijuana seeds inside a closed bag.  the law is that cops cannot open any drawers, closed containers or anything else that is not in PLAIN VIEW.  Anyway, in court one cop was truthfull and the other one lied.  The liar's name is Brian Tafoya.


I truly hope the Cramer's sue the hell out of these bastards, the insurance company should be put out of business for what they have done.  The cops should go to prison for what they have done.

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 8:41pm Permalink
anon (not verified)

In reply to by anon (not verified)

That is, they cannot open closed containers without a search warrant which they did not have.  

Unfortunately, the good average American doesn't seem to believe this stuff happens a lot until it happens to themselves.

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 8:46pm Permalink
John Thomas (not verified)

In reply to by anon (not verified)

That's horrible, but at least you weren't physically harmed.  -  Many have been. 

92-year-old Kathryn Johnston was not so lucky.

There seems to be something wrong with the "good average American."

How is it the majority of the working class seems to be okay with the U.S. bombing and killing in wars of aggression all over the planet?    -  These wars ONLY profit the corrupt one-percent.

Fri, 11/24/2017 - 4:56am Permalink
DYETT (not verified)

Now I ask you: Does a hibiscus plant, at least the common type, bear the slightest resemplance to a hemp plant? (Google it if you don't know yourself.) I, for one, don't want people who are so stupid and uneducated to be policing anywhere near where I am. Fire these clowns and get some more-intelligent replacements. Maybe some trained apes would be an improvement.


I'm an ex-cop.

Fri, 11/24/2017 - 11:12am Permalink

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