A civil rights lawsuit filed by a Buffalo Township couple who claim township police and an insurance agent mistook their flowering hibiscus plants for marijuana is now in federal court.
Edward Cramer and his wife, Audrey, claim they were handcuffed and forced to sit in the back of a police car for hours as police ransacked their home looking for marijuana on Oct. 7.
Both Cramers, who are in their late 60s, are alleging use of excessive force, false arrest, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy.
The case, filed in Butler County Court in November against Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., Nationwide agent Jonathan Yeamans, Buffalo Township and three of its police officers, was sent to federal court at the request of the defendants.
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The Cramers’ lawsuit said Yeamans came to their property Oct. 5 to investigate the insurance claim, and while there took pictures of their hibiscus plants so “as not to reveal that they had flowers on them so that they would appear to resemble marijuana plants.”
Based on Yeamans’ photos, the suit claims, Buffalo Township police Officer Jeffrey Sneddon obtained a search warrant for the Cramers’ property.
The suit said Sneddon claimed to have expertise in identifying marijuana and the search warrant contained no probable cause to search the Cramer home.
The police arrived at the house about noon Oct. 7.
Audrey Cramer, only partially dressed, answered the door to find about a dozen officers pointing assault-style rifles at her, she alleged. She claims her hands were handcuffed behind her back, and she was forced to sit in a “very hot” police car for 4.5 hours “in a state of partial undress.”
The suit says she explained, after being informed of the search for marijuana, that the plants were flowering hibiscus, but Sgt. Scott Hess, claiming expertise, insisted that they were marijuana.
According to the suit, when Edward Cramer arrived home, police met him with drawn guns and refused to believe his remarks that the plants were hibiscus plants, not marijuana. He was placed under arrest and put in the police car with his wife for more than two hours.
Kyle T. McGee, an attorney for the police, said Tuesday he isn’t permitted by his clients to discuss the case.
A scheduling conference is scheduled for Feb. 28 in front of Chief Judge Joy Flowers