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Maine Teenager Sues Town, Police Chief for Using Her as a Drug Informant Against Her Parents


January 1997

Saying her rights were violated when police used her as an informant in 1991 to arrest her marijuana-smoking parents, 17-year-old Crystal Grendell filed suit in late November 1996 against Searsport, Maine Police Chief James Gillway and the town (Renee Ordway, "Teen files suit against Searsport, police chief, " Bangor Daily News, November 29, 1996, p. A1; Associated Press, "Teen sues cops for parents' pot bust," The Herald (Miami), December 1, 1996, 11A; Associated Press, "Teen informant sues town for arrest of parents on drug counts six years ago," Buffalo News, December 1, 1996, p. A2).

In the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor, Maine, Grendell contends that then Officer Gillway assured her that her parents would not be arrested when she turned them in through a Drug Abuse Resistance Program (DARE) program at Searsport Elementary School six years ago. Crystal Grendell was 11 years old and in the sixth grade when drug agents raided her home on April 30, 1991 and arrested her parents, Preston and Gail Grendell, on charges of cultivating about 50 marijuana plants. Preston Grendell pleaded guilty and received a 90-day suspended sentence. Charges were dropped against Gail Grendell.

Jed Davis, the Grendells' lawyer, told NewsBriefs that the police used Crystal as an informant to report information back to them, including how many marijuana plants there were, her parents' schedule, and the layout of her home. Police called Crystal out of class and interviewed her several times before the raid. "Gillway told Crystal that if she cooperated and told him about her parents' use of marijuana, nothing would happen to her parents, but that if she did not cooperate they would be arrested," the suit reads. The suit alleges that Crystal was told not to say anything to her parents about her discussions with the police, cautioning her "that often parents beat their children after this type of disclosure by a child."

Davis told NewsBriefs that police "kidnaped" Crystal from the school bus on the day of the raid and locked her in a room at the police station, violating her Fourth Amendment right to "be free from unreasonable seizure." According to Davis, police would not allow Crystal to see her mother when Mrs. Grendell arrived at the police station screaming for her daughter. "Crystal's mother was told that the police did not know where Crystal was," the complaint reads. The daughter was then taken from the station by Lori Conlon, a distant relative, and instructed to lie on the floor of the vehicle so as not to be seen leaving. An uncle quickly located Crystal at her stepgrandmother's home. Police eventually authorized the uncle to take Crystal, but instructed him not to take the girl to her parents. Crystal was taken home later that evening.

Davis said the Grendells suffered economic hardship when Gail lost her job because of the investigation. He said the whole affair was traumatic for the teen and that she still suffers from feelings of guilt. "As a direct result of the defendants' conduct, Crystal has suffered and continues to suffer serious mental anguish and psychological and emotional distress," states the complaint.

For more information, contact Attorney Jed Davis at 86 Winthrop Street, Augusta, Maine 04330, Tel: (207) 622-6339, Fax: (207) 622-6549.