Couple lost home after deputies took thousands during raid, lawsuit says. They won $1M

An Alabama couple has been awarded $1 million after accusing deputies of taking thousands of dollars in an illegal raid that led to them losing their home and moving into a shed.

A jury decided two Randolph County deputies owe Gregory and Teresa Almond for an illegal search claim and excessive force claim from the drug raid six years ago, according to records filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

McClatchy News reached out to the two deputies’ attorneys and the sheriff’s office for comment Feb. 12 and did not immediately receive a response.

The raid

On Jan. 31, 2018, a deputy with the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the Almonds’ home to serve civil papers to Greg Almond, according to a federal lawsuit filed in March 2019.

The deputy left, but reported that he smelled marijuana, according to the complaint.

The sheriff’s office drug task force returned to the home later that day, the lawsuit said. They kicked down the door and threw a “shock” explosive device into the living room, which detonated at the feet of Greg Almond, his legal team said.

Pieces of tile exploded at him, and he was thrown to the floor, ears ringing, a judge wrote in a September 2022 filing. Using a flashbang explosive device isn’t typical for this kind of operation, according to the report.

As deputies entered the home, one threatened to “put a bullet” through Greg Almond’s skull, then they handcuffed him and took him to the living room, officials said.

Law enforcement searched the home and found a small marijuana plant, part of a joint, a few leaves in a cooler and outside in the grill and a glass pipe, according to case records.

As authorities went through the home, the Almonds said they took $8,000 in cash, one Lunesta pill, a diamond wedding ring, guns, a coin collection and guitars, officials said.

They were charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana and felony possession of a controlled substance, according to the lawsuit.

The marijuana belonged to the Almonds’ son, who told Randolph County authorities it was his, authorities said. Greg Almond had a prescription for Lunesta, which is used to treat insomnia.

“I’m not right,” Teresa Almond told the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. “I have not been right since the day it happened.”

‘Forcing them to live in a shed’

When the Almonds were eventually bonded out of jail, they returned to find their home of more than 30 years had been ransacked, officials said.

The charges were later dropped, but everything wasn’t the way it was before, according to the complaint.

“Because of the seized money, the Almonds were unable to pay their mortgage and lost their home due to repossession, forcing them to live in a shed on their family’s nearby property,” a judge wrote.

In their lawsuit, the Almonds also said only some of the items and money missing from their home were returned to them.

Deputies seized over 40 guns and $4,050, documented in an inventory report, and returned the property to the couple after the charges were dropped, officials said.

The couple said deputies took more money and items than was documented in the report based on what they found missing when they got home the morning after their arrest.

But deputies said “thieves in the night” could have taken the other pieces of property, which a judge said was a reasonable claim given the Almonds found their front door open and there had been four breaks-ins at their home within the last year.

The question of whether deputies had a search warrant to begin with was an item of contention as well. Conflicting accounts from a deputy and a judge made it unclear whether a warrant had been formally issued by the time the search took place.

The judge dismissed some of the Almonds’ claims and defendants, but allowed judgment to proceed against two deputies.

On Jan. 25, the Almonds were awarded compensatory damages from an illegal search claim, while Greg Almond was also awarded punitive damages related to the flashbang device.

“I’d like to see it where no one else would have to go through something like this,” he told Reason Magazine. “It would be one thing if I had been running some kind of drug enterprise or something, but that’s just not the case.”

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