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Pennsylvania Couple Sues Drug Warriors Who Thought Hibiscus Was Marijuana

Oblivious to the big, bright flowers, the cops who raided Edward and Audrey Cramer’s home insisted they were growing pot.

Wikipedia, JZSWikipedia, JZSThe first person who mistook Edward and Audrey Cramer's hibiscus plants for marijuana was Jonathan Yeamans, a Nationwide Insurance agent who had come to their property in Buffalo Township, Pennsylvania, to have a look at the damage caused by a neighbor's fallen tree. According to a lawsuit that the Cramers filed last week, Yeamans also had a look at their garden and snapped some pictures that he shared with the Buffalo Township Police Department, which is why a bunch of rifle-wielding drug warriors invaded the couple's home two days later.

An insurance agent does not necessarily know anything about cannabis (one of several reasons why he probably should refrain from ratting on customers he thinks might be growing it). But police officers charged with enforcing the drug laws really should be able to tell the difference between hibiscus and marijuana. Officer Jeffrey Sneddon, who applied for the warrant that authorized police to search the Cramers' property, claimed to know cannabis when he saw it.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review consulted a botanist, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Bonnie Isaac, who generously allowed that the leaves of some hibiscus varieties "are really similar" to cannabis leaves, such that "with a quick glance it would be hard to tell them apart." But the cops had more than a quick glance, and in any case the flowers should have immediately told them Yeamans' suspicion was wrong. As Isaac noted, "The hibiscus flowers are large and brightly colored, compared to the small nothings that grow on marijuana plants."

The Cramers' complaint, which was filed in Butler County Court and names Nationwide, Yeamans, Buffalo Township, and three of its officers as defendants, says 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." But the cops on the scene had no such excuse. Rather than admit the embarrassing mistake, they proceeded with the charade, treating the Cramers as dangerous drug traffickers.

The lawsuit says the cops arrived around noon on October 7 while Audrey was dressing and refused to let her put on pants or sandals, forcing her to stand outside in handcuffs, underwear, and bare feet. Eventually they put her in the police car, where she was joined by Edward after he returned home and was greeted by guns. Audrey, who is 66, sat in the hot squad car for four and a half hours with her hands cuffed behind her. Edward, who is 69, joining her for the last two hours or so.

The Cramers say they both repeatedly offered to show Sgt. Scott Hess the plants and explain why they were not, in fact, marijuana. Hess, who like Sneddon claimed to be an expert at identifying cannabis, insisted that he knew better. In his report, he described the purported contraband as "tall, green, leafy, suspected marijuana plants."

The Cramers eventually were released without charge. A few weeks later, they received a letter from Nationwide, threatening to revoke their coverage if they kept growing marijuana.

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  • El Oso||

    What? No dogs were shot?

  • DJF||

    And the cops arrived at noon, not midnight!

    How are they suppose to inflict the maximum terror if they arrive in daylight? Plus how will they maximize overtime if they work during the day!

    Oops I just checked Oct 7 2017 was a Saturday so they still got overtime

  • Juice||

    That's why it was 2 days later.

  • John C. Randolph||

    Officer Jeffrey Sneddon, who applied for the warrant that authorized police to search the Cramers' property, claimed to know cannabis when he saw it.

    So, Barney Fife perjured himself so he could play soldier? Is that about the size of it?

    As always in these situations, I hope that the victims refuse any settlement that allows these idiots to keep feeding at the public trough.

    -jcr

  • sarcasmic||

    As always in these situations, the victims have little choice but to take a settlement where the state does not admit to any fault. Because the state can drag the case out indefinitely until they get the settlement that they want.

  • DJF||

    Plus it almost always the taxpayer who pays not the officials so why should they care

  • sarcasmic||

    All the officials care about is not admitting to fault. They don't care about the money.

  • juris imprudent||

    I don't care about other peoples' money either.

  • Tionico||

    they'll have quite a time of it demonstrating HOW it was not thir fault that the suspect plands overnight managed to change themselves, no outside help, from marijuana to hibiscus. Further, they'll have a hard time proving that their ignorance was not their own fault, through either lying or negligence. They simply were NOT the item they suspected they were.

    Further, they'll have an even harder time proving that their decision to violate the privacy and decency of the woman involved, forcing her to remain uundressed for hours as the coppers play their stupid power games is inexcusable. They knew, or should have known, there was a female resident, thus failed to bring along a female copper who should have remained with her in private as she put some clothes on her near naked body. Had she gone out shopping at the nearst WalMart, they'd have been happy to arrest her for indecent exposure. Then she'd be a sex offender for the rest of her life, all their fault.

  • Tionico||

    Go after the bonds of the individual cops and the insurance agents. That can cost them their ability to retain their positions. If their bond is cancelled or revoked, no more paycheck as a cop or djuster. Those are registered professions that almost always require bonding.

  • ALWAYS RIGHT||

    The state can not drag the case out to infinity until they get the settlement that they want. With few depositions, I estimate 2.5 years for a court date. If the judge can be convinced that this was an honest mistake, the case will be thrown out. This is called QUALIFIED IMMUNITY.

  • Mitsima||

    You'd think that, as an "expert", on marijuana either the cop perjured himself and should go to jail, or he is too incompetent to do his job and should be fired. Of course, you'd also have to be naive enough to believe that the state exists for the benefit of the people, and the justice department lives up to its name.

  • juris imprudent||

    Rampant stupidity > qualified immunity > woodchippers

    It's a very logical progression.

  • CE||

    Isn't SWATting people a crime now in some states? Can they prosecute the insurance agent?

  • John C. Randolph||

    Oh, and thanks for the heads-up about Nationwide. I sure as fuck don't want to do business with any vendor that sends a junior G-man wannabe to my property to look for ways to rat me out.

    -jcr

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    A few weeks later, they received a letter from Nationwide, threatening to revoke their coverage if they kept growing marijuana.

    This would be why the agent narc'd.

  • ALWAYS RIGHT||

    The agent narc'd to be mean. He wanted to please those in power. I hate his fucking guts.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Would some kind person please find the name and the home address of this narc?

    And publish it, of course!

    Inquiring minds want to know...

  • marshaul||

    Jonathan Yeamans

    Phone:
    724-841-1625

  • marshaul||

    Make sure to use this information responsibly. Suicide would be a preferred outcome.

  • Tionico||

    you got it all wrong. The letter came because the idiot adjustor ((NOT an agent) acted well outside the bounds of his authoriity. Nationwide need to fire this eedjit. Making false reports that endanger the lives and rights and privacy of their clients? Someone at Nationwide needs to take action on this nonsense.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    No, the adjusters are almost assuredly instructed to find marijuana or any other disqualifying action so that the company can deny claims.

  • billstewart||

    That's going to make it a lot harder for Nationwide to get out of this lawsuit. Not only do they have an agent who narc'd on their customer (which they could have said was "against policy" or at least "not our fault, he did it on his own, sorry"), but they apparently have a process for keeping track of agent reports like that.

  • Hank Phillips||

    My thanks as well... I'll mention insurance companies selling out their clients--like the brainwashed children in Orwell's "1984" who rat their parents into the Thought Police torture enhanced interrogation chamber.

  • What's that smell?||

    So. they were so threatened by a 66 year old women that they wouldn't let her dress and they cuffed her and her 69 year old husband and tossed them in a patrol car. Truly brave Heros!

  • sarcasmic||

    They did that not because they were threatened, but because they are sadists.

  • Leo Kovalensky||

    This is maybe the worst part of the story. Even if the couple had been growing MJ, is it really that important to arrest someone who was apparently not willing (or able) to put up any resistance that you have to humiliate her by making her stand out in public in her underwear?

    Sue the police for damages. Then sue Nationwide. Maybe force them to change their stupid jingle:
    "Nationwide is on cop's side"

  • sarcasmic||

    is it really that important to arrest someone who was apparently not willing (or able) to put up any resistance that you have to humiliate her by making her stand out in public in her underwear?

    Yes. Power is an end, not a means. Having the power to humiliate requires acting on it. Otherwise the cops will be the ones who are humiliated when their peers mercilessly call them pussies for failing to be sadists.

  • Ron||

    and you have to show your power to humiliate people publicly to scare other citizens into compliance

  • Ron||

    compliance or is that complacency? doesn't matter it has the same affect either way

  • Mitsima||

    That's worth a Bronze Donut award, with Sprinkles device for bravery.

  • Ska||

    I guess I missed the sales strategy discussion on getting your clients bagged.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    Hibiscus was my hippie name.

  • Leo Kovalensky||

    Hibiscus Lives Matter

  • SQRLSY One||

    Hibiscus up my proboscis was my wild-partying college-days name!

  • Tom Bombadil||

    It is g'damn impressive how few acts of retribution occur following abusive cop incidents. Something like this happening to me or more likely, my parents would surely push me to some kind of over-reaction.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    It wouldn't hurt to remind your parents to keep their grow op on the down low.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Makes me a bit disappointed that the recent blue on blue fight had no casualties.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    I wonder if our resident cop apologists will be along soon to blame the couple for having the temerity to grow flowers.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Nationwide is NOT on your side, apparently.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    Maybe you didn't get the memo, The War on Drugs is Nationwide.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Wrong. When These States let the Prohibition Party's 1.4% spoiler the vote make beer a federal felony, diplomats and the State Department pressured and prodded the world. Iceland, Finland and the Ottoman Empire were prohibitionist, Sweden and Norway and part of Canada went dry or nationalized and rationed beer. President-elect Bert Hoover toured South America pushing prohibition of all enjoyable things, then crowded the League of Nations to do the same--especially to Germany and Austria. In fact, Americans had helped stop Europeans from dumping heroin in China as of 1909 and Austria declared war on opium-producing Serbia in 1914 the month the Hague opium treaty was nearing ratification. The war against individual rights is global by definition.

  • CE||

    At this point, anything associated with Peyton Manning is suspect.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    "I'm starting to understand why a lot of the public do not trust the police officers," Audrey said. "I'm starting to see a lot on TV where I thought, 'No, you have to be wrong because the police wouldn't make such a bad mistake.' Yeah, they would."

    Looks like the Pittsburgh Kneelers have a couple fans returning to the fold.

  • Rhywun||

    An insurance agent does not necessarily know anything about cannabis (one of several reasons why he probably should refrain from ratting on customers he thinks might be growing it).

    I wouldn't be surprised it it was a job requirement.

  • ALWAYS RIGHT||

    Is ratting-out customers written in the job description? In a country as boot-licking as ours, I don't know.

  • Rhywun||

    To be fair, I work in insurance IT and I've read a fair number of inspection reports & interacted with our claims adjusters and such. Never heard of something like this happening. I suspect the guy wanted to be a hero or something.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    His brother in law works for the DEA, he needed to have something to talk about at Thanksgiving. Probably.

  • CE||

    If you think you see something, send in the gendarmes.

  • freedomlover||

    https://goo.gl/7ApBGp

    https://seeclickfix.com/

    Full disclosure: I have used the second one to report municipal violations of an ahole group in my city of residence that fancies itself some sort of "master HOA" and thus above the law.

  • Mitsima||

    Dear insurance company, FU, sue you, boo-hoo. And I hope the little self-righteous rat prick is held personally accountable.

  • Ecoli||

    Nation Wide seems culpable here. The cops will probably get immunity.

    Standard disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.

  • Kivlor||

    I fail to see how. The adjuster made an "honest mistake" and reported what he honestly thought was a crime to the police, including pictures. That the police misidentified the plant, and then abused the couple while having no excuse once on the scene doesn't seem to reflect on Nationwide rather than the PD.

    You and I may not like that the adjuster chose to report it, but as long as there's no evidence of malice or lying to the police then I don't see how he did anything that would make him or the company he represents culpable.

  • Brandybuck||

    I used to do business in people's homes. I witnessed "crimes" many times. But never NEVER would I turn a client in. The only exception would have been for something violent. Not pot, not hibiscus, not illegal alien nannies, not unzoned home manufacturing, not the numbers game. It's not about but keeping good will with your clients, it's just fucking rude. Some guy invites you into his house and then you turn him in? Absolute pond scum.

  • Von||

    Kivlor, The agent took the picture not showing bright colored flowers. Tell me who doesn't know that marijuana doesn't have bright colored flowers? I'd bet that if you don't know that you have absolutely no clue what marijuana looks like to begin with. This was intentionally done to prevent paying out a claim. It's false report, it's insurance fraud.

    The cops, should have been able to tell. If they couldn't tell from the photo, not 100% sure, they shouldn't have been granted a search warrant. The judge rubber stamping search warrants should be included into this lawsuit. Even had this been 2 real marijuana plants, it would in no way reach commercial trafficking levels, with no history of violence for that matter crime, it should not have been a swat raid. Much less, the humiliation of forcing someone to stand in their underwear. Would it have been too much to provide access to clothing?

    They uprooted the two plants, that had bright colored flowers, and confiscated them. They were incompetent, inhumane, and violated this families constitutional rights. They do this all the time, the only reason we are hearing about this, is it is obvious that the couple involved were law abiding citizens. This kind of treatment is usually reserved to teenagers and minorities.

    Truth is, you can hardly blame the agent, cops or judge who signed the warrant. It's what happens when a free country subscribes to socialist communist ideology such as prohibition.

  • freedomlover||

    Have you ever been to Utah?

  • John C. Randolph||

    The adjuster made an "honest mistake"

    The adjuster committed gross negligence.

    -jcr

  • Ron||

    "Audrey, who is 66, sat in the hot squad car for four and a half hours"

    You know if you leave a kid or a dog in the car alone for five minutes you can go to jail these days, but as we know laws don't apply to cops. That reminds me a local K-9 cop's dog died in his car, if anyone else did that it would be major criminal offense, not in our town he was rewarded with a new dog

  • Tom Bombadil||

    I hope the couple's lawyer reads your post because that is a winner in court.

  • Rod Flash||

    I blame Peyton Manning.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    An insurance agent does not necessarily know anything about ANYTHING.

    FIFY

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Once the cop machine is set in motion it seldom stops until whatever is in it's path is sufficiently flattened, so someone else can pick through the debris and build a case. It's go big or go home; they're just lucky the didn't have any toy poodles or pugs to go with those hibiscus flowers or they'd be pushing up flowers by now.

  • freedomlover||

    It's the only way to win in gorilla warfare. Kill them all. Let God sort 'em out!

  • operagost||

    Did you misspell "guerrilla" as "gorilla" for the sake of wry humor, or as a Freudian slip?

  • mpercy||

    Don't worry. If they're snake-eating gorillas, when wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.

  • Mr. Dyslexic||

    Did you misspell "operaghost" as "operagost" for the sake of wry humor, or as a douche nozzle maneuver?

  • Hank Phillips||

    God's Own Prohibitionists dedicated their 2016 platform to the men with guns they send to kill your dog, menace you and your kids with deadly force, rob, destroy or nationalize your property... In short, The GOP needs First Responders whose First Response is to stick a Political State gun in your face for fraternizing with the burning bush. Islamic Political States need suicide-vest berserker terrorists for pretty much the same reasons: Allah told them to kill us all if that's what it takes to enforce His law. GO-Pee killers get to murder and pillage with impunity thanks to mock trials; Saracen berserkers each get 71 nine-year-old virgins to deflower posthumously as reward for their own trouble and sacrifice for someone else's good.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    So only right wing authoritarians are capable of violence? You sure about that?

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    When did you go to the other dark side, Alex Jones?

    Seriously, do you actually believe this? Do you actually believe as a one sided problem? I can't even respond with anything that resembles a rational response to the death of real information you presented.

    My advice to you is to seek help. A priest. A rabbi. A cynical atheist. Your neighbors, if they'll still talk to you. Just talk to someone that will listen a lot and offer only logical fallacy remarks.

  • Memory Hole||

    Would you believe my wife's best friend has had to talk to cops twice now about a potted plant near her door the vaguely resembles marijuana. Thankfully the cops knocked and asked questions without resorting to violence. This shit must happen all the time.

  • crufus||

    At least the police refrained from shooting up their house, setting off grenades, and using a Bearcat to to smash the walls in.

  • Finrod||

    This time.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    Probably already in use at another raid.

  • BYODB||


    A few weeks later, they received a letter from Nationwide, threatening to revoke their coverage if they kept growing marijuana.


    Yeah, I suspect Nationwide is going to lose that lawsuit. I suspect there isn't a clause in that contract regarding this particular situation. If there is, well, that's pretty damn hilarious. In either case, since it isn't a drug these homeowners are going to get a payout if they decide to pursue the case I suspect.

  • CE||

    Heckuva way to treat a customer. Hope they tell all their friends.

  • freedomlover||

    Where are all the "ambulance chasing" lawyers on this forum.

    Good God. The opportunities here are endless!

    Get Gloria Allred on the line. Gerry Spence?

    Come on man!

  • Von||

    I bet they have an apology letter coming... lol yeah right... they are going to try and get them a quick financial offer with a confidentiality clause attached to shut them up. Shoot the only offer I would consider from them would be if they publicly apologized, fired the rat, and condemned the drug war publicly.

  • Ornithorhynchus||

    ' ... compared to the small nothings that grow on marijuana plants.'

    Hey! Those small nothings are the best part!

  • Azathoth!!||

    Northern Hibiscus. The red and pink varieties particularly. The flowers are the size of dinnerplates--they look like something out of a cartoon.

    We lose at least a stalk a year to some idiot that thinks we're openly growing pot in our front yard.

  • Butler T. Reynolds||

    Looks like Jonathan Yeamans took down his LinkedIn profile. :-) I guess if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

  • Mitsima||

    Well how else are biscuits supposed to get high except through marijuana? Case closed.

  • Walt Peterson||

    "A few weeks later, they received a letter from Nationwide, threatening to revoke their coverage if they kept growing marijuana."

    Nationwide was NOT on their side.

  • Tionico||

    Natioinwide ONLY had the erroneous informatio this idiot adjuster forwarded to them. They took his word at face value. Once they realise how wrong HE is, any bets how long he will be working for Natioinside? I've used them for thirty years or more, they do NOT operate likke that. They'll make it right, and take steps to make sure this does NOT happen again. This guy's idiocy will cost them money. A LOT of money. They don't like that, It is also giving them a bad name, Thjey dont like that either. They WANT to retain their customers.

  • Rockabilly||

    Only a commie nut job would think government has any authority to tell you what you can grow on your own property.

  • Von||

    Exactly. It's not government's job to decide what is good for me or anyone to consume or grow on my property. Prohibition is clearly a socialist authoritarian communistic ideology. You would think that a strong majority of America would realize that the lawmakers think that you can not make your own decisions.

  • Von||

    Reality is, it's difficult to place blame on the insurance agent, the cops, or the rubber stamping judge that signed the warrant. Especially when we allow our lawmakers to create and continue socialist communistic authoritarian prohibition laws. Laws that only have victims when they are forced into the black market. Laws intent on making one a criminal for a personal and private consumption choice. The problem is the laws that create this police state. It's the laws that set the stage for the agent to purposely photo a plant leaving out the bright colored flowers, rating out this couple, to get out of a claim. The laws that make the cops think they have an easy bust to make their "crime stats" look better. The laws that allow for rubber stamping of warrants with inadequate evidence. The laws that have allowed police to use SWAT for every little suspected violation regardless of threat. The laws that allow cops to punish suspects who have not been convicted of the crime they are accused of.

    The blame rests solely on our law makers!

  • Cthulunotmyfriend||

    I agree. That is the whole point of this forum and that article. Not all laws are good laws, and it is the laws themselves that are the root of the problem, Yes, people are stupid. Police abuse their power. That is the nature of power, not a criticism of police, who I know work hard. But they enforce the law, and the law is the problem.
    So we should not have stupid laws.
    The laws need to be changed to decriminalize plants.
    Plants. It amazes me that one can say "That plant is illegal!"without getting laughed out of the room. What an insane concept, to make a living thing illegal. Yet a perfectly legal move in our modern 'enlightened' society. I am amazed that in the land of the free and the home of the brave that we are frightened of plants.

    I understand the justification, Plants make drugs, Drugs=bad. So outlaw the plant!
    If we allow ourselves to be ruled by fear, and agree to stupid laws this is what we get.
    If you want to grow hibiscus, or wheat, or marijuana, or opium, or deadly nightshade, I think it is your right to do so in your backyard.
    Keep it away from the front yard where random kids, dogs, may get to it.
    Though I am thinking twice about my hibiscus plants after reading this article. Luckily I live in California which has decriminalized Marijuana. Yay for Cali! Yes, I know we suck on other issues, and California can be a nanny state, but I got to take my small victories when they happen.

  • freedomlover||

    I kept my old house and moved to a new one. I still use the old one for storage, lunch breaks, etc.

    I've had nothing but headaches with neighbors trespassing and "fixing" things for me. Worse, the city has been after me at every turn for things like cancelling my garbage service which is "illegal".

    I lie like hell and tell everyone who asks what I'm doing with the old house that I still live there most of the time. It's none of their damn business and I want them to think it's occupied. Even the city.

    Well, a year ago I changed the address for my water bill to my other home because of all the mail theft at the location of the old one. The city saw this as indicating that I had a rental and thus owed a business license for having a rental. They sic'd a company called MuniServices on me who sent threatening letters if I didn't pay up or "explain myself"' I ignored them. I owe them no explanation. It's not a rental and I'd already found out the city has basically been spying on the house having a file with pictures of my car there and all. None of their business.

    Now the city has imposed via Administrative Citation a $1,000 fine on me for operating a rental without a license.

    I can't wait to get this in front of a judge as I seek punitive damages for attempted extortion, false accusations and the stress this has caused me.

  • AlgerHiss||

    "I can't wait to get this in front of a judge..."

    Don't be disappointed or surprised when this "judge" ends up just as much an ass hole as the administrators causing this trouble. Judges are nothing more than government employees with extreme egos, and they make horrid, immoral decisions every day.

    But good luck! Your "screw you...it's none of your business" attitude is commendable.

  • Rodduc||

    Everyone sing it! "Nationwide is on your side."

  • TGoodchild||

    Nationwide is not on your side

  • AlgerHiss||

    American copping, at all levels, is completely out of control.You will trust these people at your peril ESPECIALLY if you've done nothing wrong.

  • gphx||

    Hibiscus are bisquits with weed in them. Bisquits are when entrepreneurs cease operations. Mistakes happen when one doesn't kill a vampire correctly.

  • ||

    I can't believe no one has said it yet: Nationwide is on your side?

  • ||

    Sorry, I see now someone has said it

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