This report has been updated from an earlier version to correct the name of a national source who spoke about the arrest.
The arrest of two Apalachicola women April 19 for trafficking in methamphetamine soon became the talk well beyond the local scene, since one was the daughter of Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith.
Following a controlled buy by an unnamed confidential informant, narcotics deputies seized 60 grams, a little more than two ounces, of meth from Kristen Kent, 38, at her 397 24th Street home.
Also that day, using the same confidential informant, investigators from the Franklin County Sheriff Office seized 220.5 grams, close to eight ounces, from Bailey Adaire Lee, 25, at her 151 Ave H residence in Apalachicola.
Kent, who is Smith’s daughter from a short-lived marriage in the early 1980s, was charged with one count of trafficking methamphetamine of more than 14 grams. as well as possession of cocaine and possession or use of drug equipment. She was released on $25,500 bond. Smith said he did not pay her bond.
Lee was charged with two counts of trafficking methamphetamine of 14 grams. She was given a $25,000 bond.
Both women are presently being represented by Michael MacNamara, with the public defender’s office.
Trafficking in meth of between 14 and 28 grams is a first-degree felony, which can carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. Judges are often required to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Lee completed the transaction by texting the informant that the drugs had been placed in a pink backpack in the carport attached to the residence.
In Kent’s arrest, the confidential informant bought the meth directly, paying Kent with $450 in marked $50 bills.
Unlike the Lee arrest, when the narcotic investigators handled the entire thing, Smith, Chief Deputy Cliff Carroll and Major Dwayne Coulter were also all present at the Kent arrest.
The affidavit indicated a scale was discovered in plain view, as well as two small baggies, containing about two-thirds of a gram of cocaine, discovered by Smith inside of a jewelry box on Kent’s dresser inside her bedroom.
“You think I like seeing my child in an orange jumpsuit in a jail cell? Of course not,” Smith told the Times media partner, WMBB. “It’s heartbreaking, the last person you ever want to arrest is one of your family members, especially your child. I don’t think it’s anything you wish on your worst enemy to do something like this.”
The case quickly drew national attention, following a story by NBC News’ Isa Gutiérrez. Late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel in his “This Week in Florida” segment of his monologue showed a portion of the interview with Smith, and then quipped “I bet she’s in time out now” and the audience laughed.
“I thought it was kind of a sick joke,” said Smith.
He defended his office’s handling of the case, in which he shared on Facebook a post about the arrests shortly after they took place. Smith did not do a Facebook Live broadcast of either of the two women involved. He said he features only “ a very low percentage” of videotaped live arrests and has never done one of a buy bust.
“She got what everybody gets on Facebook, she got more than her fair share,” Smith said. “To say she got special treatment is a bunch of BS. At the end of the day my conscience is clear that I did the responsible and proper thing to do.”
In an interview with the Times, Smith said his daughter had taken part in Teen Challenge drug rehab several years ago. Now the mother of three children, Kent was working in the tax collector’s office but has since been let go from her job, Smith said.
The sheriff said he believes Kent may have been selling the meth for someone else, and that the original source of the meth may have been through Mexico via Georgia.
He said the investigation will continue, and that in the event further arrests are forthcoming, all of the individuals involved, including Kent and Lee, will be tried in federal court.
“Additional arrests are likely,” Smith said. “We haven’t got the indictment yet.”
Smith said he has no plans to alter his approach to the meth epidemic, which has been to crack down on the arrest side while emphasizing the prevention and treatment sides.
“To have been vocal about it and find out your daughter is doing it is earth-shattering,” he said. “This is only going to make me more determined to do something about this drug in our community.
“My commitment to the community is to prevent people from getting access to these terrible drugs, drugs that ruin families,” he told WMBB. “Here’s a prime example of what it does to our communities, what it does to our families, what it does to our friends and it’s heartbreaking.”
To learn about how the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office can help individuals trapped in a life of drugs, call Shannon Allen at (850) 653-5775.