Twiggs Sheriff plays message from critic who disagreed with him for arresting parents
Suddenly Darren Mitchum, the Twiggs County sheriff, is getting national attention. Ugly national attention, in the form of threats, profane phone calls and nasty e-mails.
Mitchum last month jailed a Macon mother and father after they allegedly gave their 15-year-old son marijuana to smoke to treat the boy's seizures. The teen had been taken from the couple's home and placed in child services' care.
That triggered a media firestorm, and Mitchum himself tossed more fuel into the mix Thursday at a press conference where he tried to explain himself.
"Whatever the law is, it's my job to enforce it," Mitchum said "The fact is that, as of today, marijuana is not legal in the state of Georgia to possess or smoke or use for recreational use. And that's it."
The state Division of Family and Children Services called in the sheriff's office on April 19 when the agency was informed that Suzeanna and Matthew Brill, of Lawrence Drive in east Macon, were giving their son marijuana to smoke because other medications didn't help.
According to the sheriff, Suzeanna Brill told a deputy she knew her actions were illegal and, "I'm willing to face the jail time or the consequences for it if it will help my son."
Matthew Brill, the boy's stepfather, told the deputy that he smokes the marijuana first to "make sure it is good" before allowing their son to smoke it, the sheriff said.
Suzeanna Brill tested negative for marijuana. Matthew Brill and the 15-year-old tested positive. Deputies did not find any marijuana in the house, the sheriff said.
The Brills were jailed April 20 on reckless conduct charges. Their son, after being taken from the home by DFCS, suffered a seizure that day and was hospitalized, the sheriff's statement said.
A story published in the New York Times on Wednesday brought national attention to the arrests.
"There's been a lot of people around the country that apparently has a view on this case," the sheriff said, adding that the office has been flooded with people around the country commenting.
The sheriff played a 30-second voice message from an out-of-state man who shouted, "I'd love to see you (expletives) try to take away my kid from me if I'm giving him the only medicine that works. You piece of (expletives)!"
The sheriff said he could have charged the parents with cruelty to children, but "that's not what we're doing."
Instead, he said, "We're trying to, on one hand, understand their position if what they're saying is true," while "at the very least still doing our job like we're supposed to do, not turning our head."
It was unclear why DFCS was at the Brill residence in the first place, but the sheriff said it is routine for deputies to accompany case workers on "a cold visit."
Matthew and Suzeanna Brill were released from jail after posting bond April 25, records show.
The New York Times reported the Brills had raised $1,000 on a crowdfunding website Wednesday. By early evening Thursday, the site showed donations amounting to more than $18,000 with a goal of $30,000. The site says the couple is raising money for a lawyer.
Georgia law allows for the possession of up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil for people diagnosed with one of a dozen illnesses including epilepsy. More than 3,500 people are registered with the state as medical marijuana patients.
Even so, cultivation here remains illegal. Federal law prohibits crossing state lines with cannabis oil. The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies marijuana is a schedule I substance along with heroin, LSD and Ecstasy.