Drug distribution charges against a Westminster High School senior were dropped Friday after the Carroll state's attorney said the 1,000 hits of LSD found on the young man weren't the real thing.
"The lab analysis of the contraband showed absolutely no presence of a controlled dangerous substance," State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes said.
On Feb. 21, Carroll Narcotics Task Force officers arrested Blair Lee Brannock, 18, in a Finksburg parking lot.
He was charged with possession with intent to distribute LSD after task force officers observed what they thought was a drug deal and found what they believed was LSD in his possession. Mr. Brannock could have been sentenced to 15 years in prison had he been convicted.
After the arrest, Mr. Barnes touted the bust as the largest single haul of LSD in county history.
Friday, the state's attorney strongly criticized the actions of the task force officers he supervises for failing to field test the evidence seized from Mr. Brannock.
"I specifically tried to avoid this kind of situation when I asked them to test every bit of drugs they find," Mr. Barnes said.
"In this case, even after I specifically asked them to, they did not. I want to assure the public that the task force will adhere to my supervision and instructions or we'll take appropriate measures."
Mr. Barnes filed charges Friday of possession and possession with intent to distribute look-alike LSD against Mr. Brannock.
The charges carry a penalty of up to five years in prison.
Mr. Brannock, who lives in Finksburg was jailed for a week when the original charges were filed.
The case had all the makings of a high school-based LSD ring, the state's attorney said last month.
According to charging documents filed in Carroll District Court by Tfc. Robert R. Heuisler, the student would "work off his pager. He meets his customers at the Cranberry Mall or at Route 140 and Sandymount Road."
The charging documents said an informant told members of the task force that a Westminster High School student was involved in "the distribution of LSD to juveniles in the Westminster area."
Had the substance been LSD, the street value of 1,000 hits of the hallucinogenic drug would have been more than $6,000, Mr. Barnes said.
Trooper Heuisler could not be reached for comment on Mr. Barnes' criticism or on the case in general.
A dose of real LSD, roughly the size of one-quarter of a thin aspirin tablet, is routinely blotted onto a piece of paper in the form of popular cartoon characters.
Carroll County school officials, at the time already reeling from a week that included the arrest of three middle school students on marijuana charges, suspended Mr. Brannock from classes at Westminster High School after his arrest.
Director of Pupil Services Edwin L. Davis said at the time that LSD is becoming more common and more used in county schools.
Mr. Brannock's attorney, Judith S. Stainbrook of Westminster, said the episode is reminiscent of "how the task force operated in the old days.
"When they do this kind of thing on a kid, it has a devastating effect. He was suspended, he was removed from his peers, he was branded as a big-time drug dealer," Ms. Stainbrook said.