When Weed Is Really Weed

The legal wrangling over a suspicious patch of ragweed has finally come to a close, after Travis Co. agreed to pay a settlement to several Spicewood residents who were the subject of an illegal drug raid, the Texas Civil Rights Project announced Dec. 29. According to TCRP's Jim Harrington, the county will pay $40,000 to Hazy Hills resident Sandy Smith and several of her tenants whose homes were raided on May 8, 2001 by the Capital Area Narcotics Task Force. The task force members descended on Smith's property without a warrant, claiming their helicopter had spotted marijuana growing on her 2.5-acre property. Smith and the others were held at gunpoint for nearly 30 minutes before the officers realized the plant in question was only ragweed -- nearly as common in Texas as dirt. "I hope [Travis Co. Sheriff Margo Frasier] and her deputies learn their lesson from this, that they must respect our civil rights and treat us with dignity," Smith said.

The Hazy Hills debacle was one in a string of high-profile CANTF failures -- including the botched raid that ended with the February 2001 shooting death of Travis Co. Sheriff's Deputy Keith Ruiz. All of Texas' regional drug task force operations were taken over by the governor's office last year -- largely because of problems with oversight and accountability, and a long list of controversial operations, including the 1999 Tulia raid. Since then the CANTF has officially disbanded. For more on the Hazy Hills raid see, "No Weed, Just Dopes," May 25, 2001.

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