Tag Archives: Meth

MN Man Spent Months in Jail After Cops Mistook His Vitamins for Meth

In November of 2014, 31-year-old Mankato, MN resident Joseph Burrell had just finished a drug treatment program when cops pulled him over in a grocery store parking lot for driving without his headlights enabled. According to CBS Minnesota, officers searched his vehicle and found a bag of blue powder. A field test used on the powder tested positive for the presence of amphetamine, and Burrell was subsequently booked on two felony drug possession charges and taken to the Blue Earth County Jail, where he remained for nearly three months with his bail set at $250,000. Last month, just as he was about to stand trial for his alleged crimes, more thorough crime lab test results proved that the blue powder found in his car actually contained vitamins, rather than meth, prompting prosecutors to drop the charges.

KMSP-TV Fox 9 notes that Burrell said, “I believe the prosecutor in Blue Earth County was dragging their feet. I got arrested November 14, 38 days later, he finally sends the alleged amphetamines for the [Bureau of Criminal Apprehension] lab to get final test results.” Burrell added, “I was furious, I was hot, I was pissed off. At the same time it was like, unbelievable.” It took nearly three months for prosecutors to obtain results from the crime lab’s analysis of the evidence. Burrell was released and the charges were dropped just before he was set to stand trial in February of 2015.

Burrell, who had been working to get his life back on track in a drug treatment program at the time that he was stopped, had an extensive criminal record, including prior drug, kidnapping, domestic assault, and stalking charges.

BenSwann.com previously reported on the plight of a Georgia woman who was arrested on felony methamphetamine possession charges after officers found a spoon encrusted with residue in her car during a traffic stop. She was released after spending over a month in jail when lab test results proved that the substance found on the spoon consisted of SpaghettiOs, rather than methamphetamine.

Jailed Woman Released After Lab Test Proved Spoon Residue Was SpaghettiOs, Not Meth

“Uh oh, SpaghettiOs.” 23-year-old Gainesville, Georgia woman Ashley Gabrielle Huff was released from Hall County Jail on Thursday September 18 after residue, found on a spoon in a car in which she was a passenger, tested positive for SpaghettiOs, rather than crystal meth. According to Gainesville Times, she was arrested on July 2 by the Gainesville Police Department on felony meth possession charges when the encrusted spoon was found, as officers believed the dried spaghetti sauce to be residual meth particles. She maintained her innocence from the beginning, pointing out immediately that the spoon had been used for its intended purpose — eating food, rather than as drug paraphernalia.

Initially, Huff, who had never before faced felony or drug-related charges, was released from jail through a drug court program, but was reincarcerated on August 2 after she missed a scheduled appointment. She remained in jail for 47 more days, as she could not afford to post bond, before crime lab results confirmed her claim that the spoon residue was indeed spaghetti sauce, rather than meth. Prosecutors subsequently dropped the felony charges against Huff. Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh issued a dismissal notice, which said, “The Crime Lab report showed no controlled substances on the spoon submitted for testing.”

Chris van Rossom, a public defender who was assigned to Huff on Aug 11, told Gainesville Times, “From what I understand, she was a passenger in a car and had a spoon on her, near her, and I guess the officer, for whatever reason, thought there was some residue… She’s maintained all along that there’s no way in hell that’s any sort of drug residue or anything like that.” Van Rossom explained Huff’s side of the story, saying, “I think she said it had been SpaghettiOs.”

Prior to her release, Huff’s attorney had chosen to move forward with a plea bargain, despite her innocence, in an effort to get her out of jail as quickly as possible. In the article “The Case Against Plea Bargaining,” Timothy Lynch from The Cato Institute argued that plea bargains themselves encourage prosecutors to threaten defendants with terrifying charges in an effort to get them to waive their right to a trial, noting that over 90% of criminal cases are never tried before a jury. Huff’s attorney Chris van Rossom told Gainesville Times, “I think what the unfortunate part about her case is that she was probably willing to take the felony to close out her case so that she get out of jail, even though she always maintained innocence.” The lab results ultimately exonerated Huff in the nick of time, preventing her from potentially pleading guilty to a crime she did not commit.