Nothing magic about mushrooms seized from home

Edward V. Spearman

WALTERBORO -- They were shiitake mushrooms after all.

Prosecutors dismissed a drug- trafficking charge against Edward Spearman, 30, after tests showed mushrooms and other materials Walterboro police obtained from his home in May contained no controlled substances.

Walterboro attorney Scott Harvin said his client, a horticulturist who grows his own shiitake mushrooms and brews his own mead, had been on suspension from his job with the S.C. Forestry Commission from the time of his arrest until charges were dismissed on July 7.

Harvin said he and his client told Walterboro, State Law Enforcement Division and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration investigators the mushrooms were an edible and legal delicacy, but they charged him with trafficking hallucinogenic mushrooms without waiting for test results, all after what Harvin called an improper search of his client's home.

"They chose to charge him and then wait for the drug test results to come," he said.

WalterboroPolice Chief Otis Rhodes confirmed the charge was dropped because the specimens tested negative for illegal drugs, but said they've already been submitted to a more sophisticated lab for re-testing. He said officers followed proper procedure.

"Some of the things he had led us to believe there might be more than just mushrooms to eat," Rhodes said.

Walterboro police responded to a suspicious-activity call at Spearman's Warren Street home about 8:30 p.m. May 10 after a neighbor reported that her children saw two people leave the house through an open side door.

Officers entered the open door to make sure no suspects were inside and saw marijuana out in the open, according to an incident report. They received a search warrant and found what they described as a lab used to grow hallucinogenic mushrooms.

Among the items inside were syringes labeled "Psilocybin" and a copy of High Times magazine.

Police contacted SLED's newly formed Joint Enforcement Team that targets drug organizations and violent crime activities across the state. The team confirmed the grow facility and, along with the DEA, investigated and seized lab equipment and large quantities of mushrooms in various growth stages, police said.

"It was a mushroom-growing operation, it was just legal mushrooms," Harvin said.

Spearman found out about the charges through word of mouth and immediately called Harvin. They met with investigators and explained that the substances were for legal growing of mushrooms and for mead.

"He's a back-to-nature guy by every stretch of the imagination," Harvin said.

An order written by 14th Circuit Solicitor Benjamin Shelton, dated July 7, said the trafficking charge has been dismissed.

"The chemical analysis and accompanying forensic examination reports of all substances found in Defendant's home show no controlled substance to be present," it said. "Thus, the State is unable to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt."

Harvin said the misdemeanor marijuana charge against his client is still pending.

Reach Andy Paras at 937-5589, on Twitter at @AndyParas or on Facebook.