A federal jury in Alabama awarded $1 million in damages to a couple over an illegal raid executed on their home by sheriff’s deputies several years ago which ultimately left the two of them destitute and cast out by their own community.
The raid took place on Jan. 31, 2018, when deputies with the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office went to serve civil court papers to Greg and Teresa Almond at their home in Woodland, Alabama, according to court documents. Greg Almond was not home at the time, but his wife told the deputies to come back in about two hours.
A deputy at the house said he smelled marijuana and a drug task force was convened and returned to the couple’s home a few hours later without ever obtaining a warrant to search the home.
“After kicking in the door, one of the members of the drug task force threw a ‘shock’ explosive device inside the residence. Greg Almond, who was in route to open the door of the residence, was injured when the explosive device blew up at his feet,” the complaint stated. “Both Greg and Teresa were then forcibly thrown to the floor. The house was ransacked.”
Deputies ended up recovering a total amount of marijuana that had a street value of about $50 or less, the complaint states. Authorities also made the Almonds open two safes containing more than 80 firearms, jewelry, about $8,000 in cash, and prescription medications, including a single Lunesta pill that was outside of the bottle prescribed to Greg Almond.
Greg and Teresa Almond were arrested that day and held overnight until they posted bond.
Despite the couple’s son going to the sheriff’s office and admitting that all of the marijuana at the residence belonged to him, not his parents, authorities still pursued charges against the Almonds. After initially being charged with possession of a controlled substance for the Lunesta pill, they were indicted for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
Due to the state’s civil asset forfeiture law, which allows authorities to retain any property alleged to have been involved in or the result of the commission of a crime, the sheriff’s office seized the contents of the Almonds’ safe and refused to return the items and cash for years until prosecutors finally dropped the charges against the couple. The asset seizure was first reported by the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice.
According to a report from AL.com, the raid caused the Almonds to miss a deadline to refinance loans on their farm which resulted in them losing their house and most of their family’s land. They then moved into a shed that had no plumbing, heat or air conditioning. They also said they were ostracized by the rest of their community.
“What I’ve been hearing since then is we were meth dealers and meth heads,” Greg Almond told Reason more than a year after the incident. “People we had been knowing for years would turn their head when they saw us and wouldn’t speak. It’s gotten where we avoid going to public places. It’s made me — I don’t how to put it in words — it’s made me not want to be out. It’s like people are whispering behind our backs.”
The Randolph County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request from Law&Crime seeking comment about the award.
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