Days after Christmas, Leon Haughton flew back to the US from his birthplace in Jamaica with three jars of honey. He had no idea they would cost him his freedom for nearly three months.
The Maryland resident spent 82 days in jail after he was arrested December 29 and accused of bringing a controlled substance into the country. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers who searched Haughton’s bag upon his arrival to Baltimore/Washington International Airport said the honey he was carrying tested positive for drugs.
“They said I was charged with methamphetamine, so I said, ‘what is methamphetamine?'” Haughton told CNN affiliate WJLA.
Charging documents say the 46-year-old man told officers he had purchased the honey on the side of a road in Jamaica, but officers suspected it was liquid meth.
Each of the three bottles tested positive for methamphetamine in a field test, according to a probable cause statement. Haughton was taken to a county jail to face multiple charges including importing a controlled substance into the state and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
He stayed there until March when the charges against him were dropped after a second test in a Georgia lab found no signs of drugs.
“Once I came out, all my insurances collapsed, my credit was destroyed,” he told the affiliate. “I lost my job, everything. They just left me a mess.”
The father of six told WJLA he lost two jobs while sitting behind bars.
But there was no error made in this case, the prosecutor’s office said.
“A specially trained drug sniffing dog was alerted to the presence of a controlled dangerous substance and a preliminary test done by the police officers further tested positive for a controlled dangerous substance,” the office said. “The confirmatory laboratory test showed (there) was no controlled dangerous substance inside the honey.”
ICE detainer in question
The Anne Arundel County Prosecutor’s Office said Haughton faced a no-bond house arrest on the state charges, but an ICE detainer prevented him from being released earlier.
Terry Morris, Haughton’s attorney, also said he was told there was an ICE detainer. Haughton also told the affiliate that upon his release he was told ICE had a hold on him.
A spokeswoman with ICE told CNN there was no detainer issued for Haughton and referred questions to USCustoms and Border Protection. When contacted by CNN, CBP declined to comment on the record.
He doesn’t want his honey back
Haughton told the affiliate the whole ordeal put a great deal of pressure on his family.
“My kids were stressed out, my mom, everybody,” he said. “They put me through hell.”
And even though Customs has sent him a letter offering the honey back, according to Morris, Haughton doesn’t want it.
“Lawsuits (are) going to be coming soon,” Morris says. “There will be lawsuits imminent.”