by Dale Chappell
A man sat in jail for nearly three months while the police tried twice at different labs to prove that jars of honey he had in his possession contained liquid methamphetamine. And even when they discovered it was in fact honey, they wouldn’t let him go.
Leon Haughton, 46, a legal green-card holder from Jamaica who has lived in Maryland for nearly a decade, was arrested at the Baltimore/Washington International Airport on December 29, 2018 after his annual visit back home. U.S. Customs and Border Protection detained him after a drug-dog sniff alerted to possible drugs in his bag. Agents found bottles labeled “honey,” a field test falsely indicated it was meth and he was arrested.
Nineteen days later, the Maryland State Police lab confirmed what the label on the bottles stated: It was honey. Yet prosecutors didn’t drop the three felony drug charges for another sixdays.
Haughton then faced just a remaining misdemeanor charge, which wouldn’t have kept him in jail. He could have been released on his own recognizance.
Yet he remained in custody because the felony charges triggered an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer, which meant he would be deported if he had been released. Though dropping the felony charges would have usually removed the detainer, the federal government shutdown in early 2019 was ongoing, and nobody was working at ICE who could remove the detainer. So Haughton stayed in jail.
At his third bail hearing on February 5, 2019, Anne Arundel County Judge Laura M. Robinson refused to release Haughton. “The ICE detainer is really prohibitive,” she said. “I’m kind of up against it on the ICE detainer.”
Haughton was finally released in March after the state dropped the misdemeanor charge. He had spent 82 days in jail from December 29, 2018 to March 21, 2019 – all for some jars of honey.
A reason.com article said Haughton’s case demonstrated “a heap of inane government incompetence.” Why did it require multiple tests to prove the honey was not meth? Why did it take six days to drop all the charges once prosecutors learned it wasn’t meth? And why was a wrongful detainer kept in place during a government shutdown?
“It broke me right down,” Haughton said after his release. “Once I came out, all my insurances collapsed, my credit was destroyed,” he added. “I lost my job, everything. They just left me a mess.” Not to mention he was unable to be with his six children for almost three months.
“Lawsuits [are] going to be coming soon,” said Terry Morris, Haughton’s attorney. “There will be lawsuits imminent.”
Sources: reason.com, CNN
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