By Dillon Kim, Journalism Guild Writer
After police mistook powdered milk for powdered cocaine upon searching a homeless man in Oklahoma, the man pled guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in state prison.
Unable to post the $50,000 cash bond to escape the confines of the Oklahoma City Jail, Cody Gregg, 26, falsely pled guilty to drug-trafficking charges. Gregg had faced drug charges in the past.
According to an article by Dillon Thompson on AOL.com in August, Gregg was stopped by police for an alleged traffic violation. Gregg attempted to flee on his bicycle but was caught and searched. Upon finding a “large amount of white powder substance” on Gregg, the police arrested him.
According to the incident report from the police, the arresting officer “believed [the powder] to be cocaine based on my training and experience.” Police said the white powder substance tested positive for cocaine.
A laboratory tested the white substance two months later and found that it was not cocaine. Once Gregg found out about the new test results, he attempted to withdraw his guilty plea. Gregg told the judge that the white substance was actually powdered milk he’d gotten from a local food pantry, reported The Oklahoman newspaper.
His petition ultimately was successful: all charges against Gregg were dismissed, and he was released.
Jason Lollman, a public defender in Tulsa, Okla., told NBC News that it is common for suspects in custody to falsely plead guilty to crimes they did not commit. By doing so, they can avoid local incarceration while they wait for their trials to start. Instead, they can be incarcerated in the prison system which is designed for longer-term sentences. That may have been true here. Lollman said that the Oklahoma City Jail, where Gregg was held, in is “a generally awful jail” which, according to The Oklahoman, had at least six inmate deaths this year.
“The cash bail system, posting cash bail, is a problem,” Lollman told The Oklahoman. “If they can’t afford an attorney, they’re not going to be able to post bond to get out.”
According to Lollman , he regularly talks his clients out of falsely pleading guilty. “Sometimes it’s like we, the attorneys, have more stamina than the clients do,” he told NBC News. “But that’s because we’re on the outside, and they’re in jail.”