GULFPORT - A complaint involving the destruction of a crop at first
suspected of being marijuana sits idle like fallow ground.

A recent caller to The Sun Herald's anonymous Sound Off column raised the
question of progress in the complaint filed on behalf of Marion "Bucky"
Waltman, who claims the Harrison County Sheriff's Department destroyed
property, including more than 500 kenaf plants grown for deer food, in a
raid Sept. 8.

The complaint is likely to remain in limbo until the end of January, when
the 120-day time limit passes for responding to a legal demand letter, said
Waltman's attorney, Chet Nicholson.

"We're just waiting," Nicholson said. "I really don't anticipate the county
will respond before then."

Waltman, president of the Boarhog Hunting Club, seeks a $255,000 settlement
from the county. His complaint accuses Payne and his agents of negligence,
trespassing, invasion of privacy and defamation.

The complaint threatens to file civil and federal lawsuits if it's not
resolved.

County Attorney Joe Meadows said he doesn't expect any action to be taken
until the Harrison County Board of Supervisors reviews the complaint in
January.

Meadows said he believed the holdup is a crime lab report that would
confirm whether the plants were marijuana or kenaf.

However, Sheriff George H. Payne Jr. said he knows nothing about a crime
lab report.

"I don't even have a case number," said Payne. "My officers were assisting
the DEA-HIDTA task force on an investigation they were conducting."

HIDTA, or High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, is a federally funded task
force. Federal agents have not returned phone calls regarding the case.

Waltman said officers also tore up a road and gate leading to the property
off Herman Ladner Road.

"What they didn't pull up, their trucks tore up," he said.

He said he planted a new crop of kenaf in a nearby field, "but we haven't
had good hunting since the other crop was ripped out."

"Until it's resolved, it looks like I'm 'a person of interest.' I'm not a
dope-grower. I'm a hunter."


Pubdate: Tue, 16 Dec 2003
Source: Sun Herald (MS)
Copyright: 2003, The Sun Herald
Contact: letters@sunherald.com
Website: http://www.sunherald.com