Seriously Ill Medical Marijuana Patients File Federal Lawsuit Against San Diego Officials for Rights Violations

For Immediate Release: September 24, 2014
Contact: San Diego Americans for Safe Access 619-651-0706

Seriously Ill Medical Marijuana Patients File Federal Lawsuit Against San Diego Officials for Rights Violations
San Diego couple were acquitted by a jury after enduring a questionable paramilitary-style raid on their property

San Diego, CA — A federal lawsuit was filed earlier this month on behalf of two seriously ill medical marijuana patients, Deborah Little, 61, and Dennis Little, 66, a couple from Ramona, CA whose home was raided in October 2012 by the San Diego County Integrated Narcotics Task Force (NTF). The paramilitary-style raid, including police brandishing assault rifles, found a modest garden of 29 plants, which the Littles say was entirely for personal use. The couple was tried in March 2014 on possession of marijuana for sale and unlawful cultivation of marijuana, but the court dismissed the cultivation charge and they were acquitted of possession by a jury.

“This case is an example of a phenomenon that has gained national attention recently: military-style SWAT tactics used in everyday law enforcement,” said Nathan Shaman, the attorney representing the Littles in their civil lawsuit. “More and more we are seeing law enforcement treat our citizens as enemy combatants,” continued Shaman. “The Littles’ situation provides a stark reminder that even harmless, law-abiding, seriously ill people can be and are terrorized by their own police force. We hope this will send a message to law enforcement that their egregious, unconstitutional behavior will not be tolerated.”

The Littles are both qualified patients under California law. Deborah Little has suffered from HIV for more than 20 years, is a cancer survivor, and has suffered from a number of other debilitating illnesses. Dennis has suffered from neuropathy and depression for years. The Littles began using medical marijuana as a last resort to treat their pain, particularly Deborah who had suffered so gravely from the cocktail of medications she used to treat her HIV.

The October 2012 raid, which was conducted under questionable circumstances NTF agents who immediately destroyed the evidence, resulting in the suppression of evidence in their criminal case and the ultimate acquittal. However, at the time of the raid, according to the Littles they were subjected to malicious and inhumane treatment including a refusal to allow Deborah to use the bathroom, forcing her to soil herself. The Littles were also subjected to extensive interrogation without allowing them to confer with legal counsel.

“I applaud the Littles for finding the strength and will to not only recover from the trauma of the raid but to take steps to hold law enforcement accountable,” said Terrie Best, Chair of San Diego Americans for Safe Access, who monitored their criminal trial. Since the time of the raid, the Littles have suffered from persistent PTSD symptoms.

The lawsuit is Little v. Gore, case no. 3:14-cv-02181-BAS-JMA in the District Court for the Southern District of California. The suit names as defendants San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman and San Diego Sheriff William Gore in their capacities as chief policymakers for San Diego law enforcement’s handling of police investigations. The suit also names various law enforcement officers who are members of NTF, the agency responsible for the raid on the Littles’ property.

Further information:
The Littles’ federal lawsuit complaint:
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