A Maryland man was held behind bars for three months after U.S. Customs and Border Protection misidentified three bottles of honey for liquid meth.
Leon Haughton was returning to Baltimore after a Christmas holiday with family in Jamaica when he was stopped and arrested at the airport. He had made a routine purchase of three bottles of honey from his favorite roadside stand, and now authorities were accusing him of trying to smuggle in liquid meth.
But it took another three months for all charges to be dropped after two rounds of law enforcement lab tests showed no controlled substances in the bottles, The Washington Post reports. The time away caused him to lose both his jobs as a cleaner and construction worker.
“They messed up my life,” Haughton said of the charges that had him facing 25 years in prison. “I want the world to know that the system is not right. If I didn’t have strong people around me, they would probably leave me in jail. You’re lost in the system.”
His case was further complicated by bureaucratic paperwork because the initial arrest triggered a federal detention order over his green card status. This ended up extending his time in jail beyond the first 20 days when the drug test on the honey came up negative.
“It’s not unusual that people who are held in criminal custody with ICE detainers have their detentions prolonged and then the charges are dismissed,” said Emma Winger, a staff attorney for the American Immigration Council.
“I’m scared to even travel right now,” Haughton said. “You’re innocent, and you can end up in jail.”