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By ANITA KUMAR
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000
TAMPA -- Just before Randy Heine's trial on marijuana possession and paraphernalia charges was set to begin last month, Pinellas County prosecutors dropped all charges against him.
But that victory wasn't enough for Heine.
On Tuesday, the recent U.S. congressional candidate sued the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, claiming deputies illegally arrested him and raided his home and businesses in January 1998.
"I wish this never happened," Heine said. "It's a nightmare for me, and it's a nightmare for the people of Pinellas County who are going to have to pay."
Heine, who lost his bid for the District 10 race to Rep. C.W. Bill Young Tuesday, said he filed his suit on Election Day because he didn't want it to have an impact on his race or have people think he sued because he was upset about a loss. "I wanted to be neutral either way," he said.
Deputies say Heine, who owns the Tobacco Emporium and the New Tradition Pipe Co. in Pinellas Park, was the leading seller and manufacturer of drug paraphernalia in Pinellas County.
They raided both businesses and his home and said they found exactly what their search warrants predicted: drug paraphernalia and marijuana. Heine, who has said the seizure nearly bankrupted him, never reopened his pipe-manufacturing plant.
Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Lauren Laughlin threw out much of the evidence that was seized, ruling in October 1999 that the search warrants contained "a reckless disregard for the truth . . . (and) a gross, material misrepresentation of fact."
Heine's attorneys said deputies took more than $1-million worth of merchandise and cost his businesses more than $2-million. "He took a beating," said Robert Vaughn, Heine's attorney in Nashville, Tenn.
The suit filed in federal court in Tampa accuses Sheriff Everett Rice and six deputies of illegal search and seizure, malicious prosecution, withholding information from affidavits and singling Heine out for advocating reform of marijuana laws.
Sheriff's officials could not be reached for comment.
Heine, 49, sold and manufactured tobacco pipes. Although police say the pipes are commonly used to smoke illegal drugs, such as marijuana, Heine says they can also be used to smoke legal tobacco products. As a result, he said, they are not what prosecutors define as illegal drug paraphernalia.