12 Shocking Drug News Items From the Sunshine State

By McCarton Ackerman 06/04/14

From wickedly funny to stunningly stupid to eye-raising examples of brutal behavior, Florida is the state that keeps on making headlines in the drug world.

Prosecutor Calls Addicts ‘Crack Hoes’ on Facebook Page

A Florida prosecutor apologized earlier this month after a Facebook post which referred to drug addicts as “crack hoes.” Kenneth Lewis, an assistant state attorney for Orange and Osceola County, was overwhelmingly slammed for his post which read: "Happy Mother's Day to all the crack hoes out there. It's never too late to turn it around, tie your tubes, clean up your life and make difference to someone out there that deserves a better mother."

Lewis apologized for his “poor choice of words,” but showed a lack of remorse by claiming he intended for the post to be only visible to his Facebook friends. The post still remains active on his page. Florida natives also objected to his lack of punishment. Lewis’ boss, Ninth Circuit State Attorney Jeff Ashton, called the remarks “offensive and dehumanizing,” but said that a punishment couldn’t be issued because his office did not have a social media policy. 

Arrested Man: “I Thought Cocaine Wasn’t Illegal”

Even though it’s been illegal across the country for decades, 46-year-old Guy Lanchester used ignorance as an excuse to try and get out of cocaine possession and evidence tampering charges. Last February, police in Key West caught him red (or white) handed with a bag of cocaine in his hands outside of a resort, where he had been seen arguing loudly with a woman. Lanchester reportedly “shoved his hands into [a] flower pot and yanked them back out,” but police quickly stepped in and uncovered a small plastic baggie with .8 grams of cocaine. When questioned by the cops, he told them he “thought cocaine wasn’t illegal in Florida.” 

Man Murders Drinking Buddy Over Last Beer

Rather than go to the nearest supermarket, Ocala native Daniel Trent took matters into his own hands last month during an argument with his drinking buddy over the last beer. He stabbed both 56-year-old Mark Durham and the man’s dog to death because Durham “didn’t want to share it. He wanted it for himself.” 

The two men had been drinking copious amounts of Natural Ice that night at Trent’s house, with both men downing about 20 beers each. After initially denying the murder to police, he later admitted that when Durham claimed the last beer and refused to leave, he stabbed the man twice with a kitchen knife. However, he claimed it was in self-defense because Durham stabbed him first and that he only killed the dog after a dying Durham asked him to. In a gross understatement, he admitted that he “should have stopped drinking.”

Trent was ultimately charged with second-degree murder and held without bond.   

Meth User Burns Down World’s Fifth-Oldest Tree

A meth addict in Seminole County expressed remorse and shame after accidentally burning down a 118-foot-tall bald cypress tree that was more than 3,500 years old. Sarah Barnes, 26, was using meth inside of the tree with a friend in January 2012. She fled the scene and it appeared she would get away with her crime at first after the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service initially suspected either lightning or an arsonist caused the environmental tragedy. 

However, police were able to use anonymous tips to track down Barnes after she showed people images of the fire that she downloaded to both her computer and cell phone. She reportedly told friends, “I can’t believe I burned down a tree older than Jesus.” After being confronted by authorities, she admitted to lighting the fire.  

High, Naked Man Shot Dead After Biting Another Man’s Face

A Florida man was shot to death by police after biting the face of another man in Delray Beach while roaming the streets naked and high. The man, whose body was never identified, assaulted numerous people one evening last February on Military Trail before biting an 18-year-old man in the face. After continuing to attack police even after being Tasered, authorities killed him by firing three shots.

[He] was obviously on some kind of narcotics to act like this. He’s obviously delirious on something,” said Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw. “The people that he assaulted ... said this guy had super human strength. He looks like an NFL linebacker. And he basically started terrorizing people all up and down the street.”

The case had many similarities to the 2012 tragedy involving Ronald Poppo and Rudy Eugene. Eugene was shot dead by police after viciously attacking Poppo underneath a Florida highway and refusing to stop chewing his face. Although Poppo survived the attack, he needed a face transplant afterwards and is now permanently blind. Although bath salts were initially rumored to be the cause of the attack, lab tests later only found marijuana in Eugene’s system.

Drug Court Judges Battle Their Own Drug and Alcohol Problems

The same judges that sentence drug and alcohol offenders to rehab have needed some treatment themselves. Broward County Judge Giselle Pollack entered an outpatient program last December after reportedly showing up drunk to work. 

She allegedly ended a session after 90 minutes and bizarrely ranted at her assistant afterwards. Although she returned to work the next day, Pollack acknowledged that she has "some health issues. I’m going into treatment for them. I have two weeks off starting [Friday]. I’m going to be in an intense outpatient program.” But after slurring her words and being removed from the courtroom last March, she went on personal leave once again.

Unfortunately, Pollack is in good company among other Broward County drug court charges. Last November, Judge Cynthia Imperato was arrested for DUI. In 2007, Judge Lawrence Korda was caught smoking pot in a park, while Judge Joyce Julian was arrested in 2001 after being found drunk, disoriented and partially naked as he wandered the hallways of a resort hosting the Florida Conference of Circuit Judges.

Florida’s Welfare Drug Testing Program Ends Up Losing Money

In a program that at least received an “A” for effort, Gov. Rick Scott’s program which called for welfare recipients to undergo mandatory drug testing was a stunning failure. An April 2012 report showed that out of the 4,086 applicants who were drug tested, only 2.6 percent of them failed. And since the state is legally required to reimburse the cost of the testing to applicants who passed, it ultimately cost them $45,780.

The ill-advised program was deemed unconstitutional last December, with Judge Mary S. Scriven ruling that there is "no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied." But Scott intends on taking his battle to the Supreme Court, declaring that "we should have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drug use in families – especially those families who struggle to make ends meet and need welfare assistance to provide for their children."

Ranch Forces Addicts Into “Modern Slavery”

A Florida ranch in Hastings was accused in May 2012 of exploiting drug addicts by making them work for free to fuel their habits. Former worker LeRoy Smith filed a lawsuit against Bulls-Hit ranch by claiming they provided unlimited access to drugs, alcohol and prostitutes on credit rates of 100%. Their living expenses at the range were deducted from their wages, but since they had already accumulated so much debt due to their vices, employers would reportedly terrorize the addicts and refuse to allow them to leave.

Smith, a crack addict, said he experienced “slavery, abuse...deplorable, unsanitary conditions” during his time at the ranch, but the farm’s labor contractors, Ronald Uzzle, denied the allegations and said people could leave whenever they wanted. "There's no drugs sold on this camp," he said. "I'm not going to tell you people don't do drugs, but if people want to do drugs, they do it. I can't stop them." Shockingly, Bulls-Hit Ranch isn’t the only ranch to take advantage of addicts. Workers' advocates in the state believe that five to 10 other ranching families in the area have utilized similar practices.

Drug Dealer Murders Two Over $40 Pill Debt

A $40 debt is a relatively small sum to most, but it angered one drug dealer enough in December 2011 to murder a young couple over the lack of payment. Craig Lede, 40, murdered 28-year-old Dana Nelson and 29-year-old John Ketsemidis because he was “tired of being screwed with.” All three were prescription drug addicts and patients of the nearby Hope Pain Management Clinic until it was raided and shut down by authorities the previous month.

After the couple met with Lede to discuss their past due payment, he reportedly became “enraged” and beat them to death. Ketsemidis’ body was placed in Lede’s garage, while Nelson’s body was stored in the trunk of his car as he reportedly ran errands with her on board. He also took photos of their dead bodies as a “trophy.” Sheriff Al Neinhuis said afterwards that “while we cannot link this heinous and senseless crime directly to the abuse of prescription drugs, there is little doubt that it significantly contributed to the deaths of these two young people.”

Beer Thief Arrested After Tripping Over Sagging Pants

An Orlando native was given the unflattering title of “clumsy beer thief” after being thwarted by police when he tripped over his sagging pants in August 2011. Juan Gutierrez, 27, stole two 18-packs from a local convenience store and fled the scene on foot. After tripping over his pants and dropping the beer, he hopped into a waiting car. Police eventually tracked down Gutierrez and the driver, 22-year-old Angel Ortiz, arresting them both on one count of petit theft.

The owner of the vehicle said she lent her car to the two men to get beer, but they informed her that Gutierrez “fell down” and lost the beer. However, this was hardly their first trip to jail; both men had been arrested on several occasions in the past. 

Drug Dealer Sold Cocaine, Pony Rides 

You probably wouldn’t want a gang member with felony possession charges near your children, but a Palm Beach drug dealer and gang member also ran a pony rental business on the side. Dilbert Coreas, an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador, was convicted on the charges in June 2009 and deported in 2012. But after reentering the country illegally, he opened up “It’z a Kid’z World Party Planning and Rental," where pony rides and bouncy houses were available to customers. 

But while he ran the kid-friendly business, police became aware of his more adult activities as a member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang, a violent Central American gang also known as MS-13. Palm Beach authorities monitored his pony rental parties before arresting him in May 2013 on charges of reentering the country after deportation.

Florida Launches Marijuana University

Medical and recreational pot use isn’t legal in Florida, but one optimistic man attempted to get ahead of the game last February by launching the first-ever marijuana university. Located in Tampa, Medical Marijuana University charges $499 for a one-month course that teaches students the ins and outs of the medical marijuana industry. 

“Let’s bring this medicine out of the darkness and into the light,” said founder Jeremy Bufford. “We’re doing something innovative. It’s education oriented. We’re not trying to set up a shop where we’re selling drugs. We’re trying to educate people.”

Although he claims to have brought in professors from across the country for his university, he is ambitiously seeking $10 million from investors to add four additional classrooms, 15 treatment centers and a marijuana lab if the drug is approved for medicinal use. But since the state won’t vote on the issue until November, no investors have offered up funds yet for fear that their money would go up in smoke. 

McCarton Ackerman has been a regular contributor to The Fix since 2011. He last wrote about ten crazy athlete excuses for failed drug tests.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.