Jefferson County District Attorney Mike Anderton (R) spoke at a town hall in Adamsville where he said that, “The opioid crisis is literally and figuratively killing us.
Anderton spoke in Adamsville at the Victory Christian Fellowship.
“The opioid crisis is literally and figuratively killing us,” Anderton said. “A lot of that is that the dealers are lacing it with really dangerous stuff.” The fentanyl that is being abused on the streets is not the prescription version. It is manufactured in large quantities and then smuggled into the country.
“Overdoses are almost always either an especially pure batch of heroin or they are cutting it with fentanyl,” Anderson explained. A lot of drug users started using hydrocodone because their doctor prescribed it. They got addicted and when the prescription ran out they have to have it so they go to the dealers. “Hydrocodone costs them $100 a day so they switch to heroin which is just a $25 a day habit. They have made it more pure so that it can be smoked or snorted. A lot of kids who would never stick a needle in their arm will snort it or smoke it. Every time they use heroin they need to use a little more. They will all eventually stick a needle in their arm to get it.”
Anderton said that overdoses also happen when a drug addict goes to rehab, goes through withdrawal, gets the drug out of their system, and then goes back on the drug at the level they took before they quit. Their body is no longer used to the drug at that level and they overdose.
Anderton said that everyone knows not to use used needles or share needles; but heroin users don’t care. I have talked with them and they said, “I will be dead of something else before AIDs or hepatitis gets me.”
“Heroin dealers are not heroin users,” Anderton said. “There is no such thing as a heroin addict selling heroin to support their habit.”
Anderton said that massive tractor trailer loads of heroin come through Birmingham. “They are trafficking that stuff through our county. You can’t stop those kind of traffickers if you give them a break. I am not talking about the guy with a joint in his pocket or the guy that has a dime bag in her pocket. I am talking about the heavy hitters. You can not get anybody’s attention if you reduce the charges.
Anderton said that Atlanta is a hub. If it gets to Atlanta some of it will come back here through the distribution network so it is important to catch it going through Jefferson County.
Anderton said that he will aggressively go after heroin and fentanyl traffickers but in the normal business of prosecuting, “The plea bargain is a necessary evil I am afraid.”
Anderton said that they do not overcharge in order to force a plea, “We are not going to force him to plead guilty. That’s junk. That is certainly junk in the Jefferson County DA’s office. That may have been the way it was done in the old days but that is not the way we have done it for the last 36 years.”
“I have prosecuted a lot of cases, over 350,” Anderton said. “The first thing you do is analyze it.” You see if the evidence is there to justify the accusation. “We are not going to manufacture evidence. We are not going to make stuff up. Why would I grab somebody off the street and punish him with the real criminal still loose on the streets?”
“If you see it on CSI or Law and Order, Cinderella is just as realistic,” Anderton said. They have got 40 minute to have a crime, have the police respond, to collect evidence, make arrests, go to trial, and solve the case. “It does not work like that.”
“I am an Eagle Scout,” Anderton said. “I still work with the troop that I grew up on. A lot of slings and arrows have been thrown my way since I got appointed and a lot of lies have been told.”
“How can we stay safer,” Anderton said. “We have to pay attention. If you see something you have got to tell somebody. If you see two people kicking in the door of your neighbors house and the police come to you and you say nothing you are just as guilty as they are (not legally) but you could have done something.”
Anderton said that the ability of prosecutors to handle child sexual abuse has gotten a lot better than when he started as a prosecutor. David Barber opened up Prescott House.
“In the old days a child would be telling their story ten or eleven times before it ever got to court,” Anderton said. With Prescott House, “Instead of having to talk to all these policemen with guns or lawyers with legal pads they go to the Prescott House and they are interviewed by somebody who is trained how to interview children. It is videotaped. The police and DHR see that. We go to check out what the child says or debunk what the child says.” “That has truly changed how we prosecute and deal with child sex abuse cases. In the old days the DA would do the interview. I chased a three year-old around a coffee table one time asking questions in the voice that I would with an adult. I did not know how to talk to kids. I am a better prosecutor because of the Prescott House.”
Anderton showed a video of a man who testified against a man for sex abuse when he was only 12 years old.
Anderton said that the man’s molester, “Was a standup guy in the community. He was a Boy Scout leader. He was a Church youth leader.”
“He (the accuser) was just 12 years old,” Anderton said. “Because he came forward that guy (the abuser) is doing 30 years in the penitentiary.” Investigators found a serious of boys that had been abused over decades. Grown men had never come forward.
“We see kids all the time that have been abused,” Anderton said. “We do not publish it in a newspaper. We do not get a warrant until we have gathered evidence. Child sex abuse is very prevalent. I don’t like it, but we have to deal with it. When a five year old sends you a thank you note in crayon that is where the reward is.”
“The people in my office with 15 to 20 years of trial experience, they probably should make twice what they are making but they do it for the service to the community,” Anderton said.
Mike Anderton was a career District Attorney. He was appointed as Jefferson County District Attorney by Governor Kay Ivey (R) when the position became vacant.
Anderton faces Danny Carr (D) in the November 6 general election.