Despite plea, little admission of guilt

Published 2:33 am Monday, August 4, 2008

By Staff
Story by Lisa Tindell and Kerry Whipple Bean
Nearly five months after he was arrested and jailed with an initial bond of $8 million, Mike Haveard took a guilty plea bargain on drug distribution charges - but he's not willing to take all of the blame.
An interview in Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith's office was Haveard's first chance to tell his side of the story, from his March 3 arrest to the July 28 guilty plea.
Haveard was sentenced to 20 years on charges of distribution of a controlled substance and criminal solicitation to commit theft of property. Other drug possession charges were dropped as a result of his plea.
But Haveard said he only took the deal to avoid a much longer sentence.
Haveard was also ordered to pay $25,000 in restitution as well as $30,000 in fines, along with court costs and $2,200 in additional fees.
As part of the deal, Haveard said he also had to give up his home on Stallworth Street in the Alco community. “They took my home and some other property as part of this deal,” he said. “They also took my business from me.”
Haveard said the plea bargain to which he agreed was presented to him a half hour before his trial was set to begin.
But law enforcement sources have said Haveard was offered a plea deal the week before the trial began and declined to take it. Haveard also never requested a change of venue.
While Haveard didn't get his day in court last week, prosecutors presented two days of evidence earlier this year in a hearing after which Haveard's bond was reduced to about a tenth of the original $8 million.
At that hearing, Haveard employee Ricky Joyner testified that he did carpentry work and other odd jobs for Haveard, and that Haveard paid him in cash and Oxycontin pills nearly every day.
Joyner also testified that he had his own prescription for Oxycontin but needed more pills to relieve his pain. Joyner testified that he sometimes sold part of his prescription pills to Haveard.
Haveard said Thursday that he was only holding the drugs at his home.
When asked whether he had ever sold any of the Oxycontin pills, Haveard stopped short of admitting any wrongdoing.
Haveard was also indicted on charges that said he was responsible for providing money for a number of people to open checking accounts in their name. The account holders would allegedly purchase building supplies and other items with bad checks and sell the merchandise to Haveard at pennies on the dollar.
But Haveard said Thursday he was doing what any businessman would have done.
Wayne Crutchfield testified at Haveard's March bond hearing that Haveard helped him set up a checking account, which Crutchfield then used to purchase building materials at area stores. As part of the bad check scheme, Haveard paid Crutchfield 30 cents on the dollar - payment that came in the form of cash and Oxycontin pills, Crutchfield testified.
Haveard denied helping to set up the checking account. Haveard said Thursday that he believed the men he bought from were selling the goods for quick cash.
Haveard said agents with the Drug Task Force and officials in the district attorney's office seemed to be “out to get” him, resulting in the indictments and arrest.
But Sheriff Smith, who was present during Thursday's interview with Haveard, told him those officers were just doing their job.
Ironically, Haveard said he himself used Oxycontin pills for two and a half years without a prescription. He said he was never addicted but used them to “loosen up,” and he quit just a few months before his arrest.
Haveard admitted in the interview that he gave pills to an undercover drug task force agent, but he said allegations that he was a major drug dealer weren't true.
Haveard is expected to spend a minimum of six years in prison after pleading guilty to the crimes of theft and drug distribution. In most cases, prisoners are eligible for parole after serving one-third of their sentence. Haveard said he probably wouldn't be a part of the Brewton community when it is released from prison.
Haveard said he wasn't going to claim complete innocence concerning the charges against him, but neither did he claim guilt.
Haveard will remain in the Escambia County Detention Center for another 30 to 60 days until paperwork concerning his guilty plea is completed. At that point, he will be sent to Kirby Correctional Facility for processing which will take 30 to 90 days. After classification is complete at Kirby, Haveard will be transferred to the location where he will serve the remainder of his sentence.
While Haveard may not serve the entire 20 years, he said he knows he will spend a considerable amount of time in prison.