GAINESVILLE, GA — An innocent woman had several months of her life destroyed when she was arrested and charged with a felony because of a spaghetti-encrusted spoon found in her possession.
Ashley Gabrielle Huff, 23, had no criminal history and insisted that “there’s no way in hell” that there could have been any drugs in her possession during a traffic stop in July. Nonetheless, a Gainesville police officer honed in on a spoon that was “on her or near her” in the vehicle in which she was riding as a passenger.
Suspecting that the spoon had drug residue on it, the officer arrested Ms. Huff and charged her with possession of methamphetamines. Even for trace amounts, the charge of possessing “Schedule II substances” Georgia is punishable by 2-15 years in prison.
After her July 2nd arrest, she spend an unconfirmed number of days in jail before she was released and required to attend a number of obligatory drug appointments. When she was unable to make all the appointments, she was rearrested and made to sit in jail from August 2nd until September 18th.
Ms. Huff insisted that she wasn’t a drug user, but had little means with which to defend herself. She relied on a public defender to represent her in court.
Finally in late September, a crime lab analysis revealed that the “residue” on the spoon was not an illegal drug. It was actually tomato sauce from a can of SpaghettiOs, as the woman had claimed all along.
“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,” public defender Chris van Rossem told the Gainesville Times.
Once the crime lab failed to indicate any drug evidence, the county prosecutor dropped the charge against Ms. Huff. She spent at least 47 days in the Hall County Jail.
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This case represents much more than simply an unfortunate mistake that cost a woman dearly. This is the embodiment of the institutionalized injustice that the Drug War is built upon. Through the tyranny of prohibition laws, a person can face the potential of life-ruining consequences based only upon the possession of an arbitrary plant or substance. There needn’t be a dead body, a smoking gun, or a victim of any kind to destroy the life of the accused. Even the innocent can be harshly treated under these misguided, often draconian laws.
As if the capacity for the government making honest mistakes were not threatening enough, citizens must also consider that prohibition laws allow corrupt state agents ample opportunity to plant evidence and fabricate a crime. Its hard to think of another crime with such great potential for misuse.
Ms. Huff is hardly the fist innocent person to have her life turned upside-down due to the cruel and corrupt Drug War, and she certainly won’t be the last.