Embattled political candidates running for re-election try, hope and pray for all sorts of things to turn their fortunes around. It’s safe to say that, at least since Prohibition, no candidate in Flagler County turned police informant on a drug dealer, as did Joe Mullins, the county commissioner who only weeks ago was disrespecting law enforcement, threatening a state policeman’s job and fabricating the support of two retired police associations he didn’t have.
It isn’t exactly known when, but sometime over the weekend Mullins says someone randomly contacted by by text and offered to sell him an “eight-ball” of cocaine, according to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office. An 8-ball is slang for an eighth of an ounce, or 3.5 grams.
According to his arrest report, Jack Edward Fisher, who turned 18 in late March, texted Mullins. Mullins contacted Chief Mark Strobridge, the sheriff’s right hand, and Strobridge turned it over to investigators. Detectives narrowed the phone number down to that of Fisher and engaged him by text to arrange what would be an undercover buy. The transaction was to take place at Bird of Paradise Lake.
At 12:40 this morning Fisher approached the detectives’ vehicle and made contact with one of the detectives at the rear driver’s side door. The detective “identified himself as a law enforcement officer,” the arrest report states. Fisher allegedly “threw a container he was holding in his right hand toward the lake in an attempt to get rid of the suspected cocaine he was carrying. On the ground next to the container a clear plastic baggy containing a white rock like substance was located.” Fisher was then identified, and a detective called the number Mullins had provided. Fisher’s phone rang, confirming he was the one who’d communicated with the commissioner and with detectives.
The Sheriff’s Office is not releasing the text messages, and a spokesperson said there is no body cam footage.
Fisher was booked at the Flagler County jail–he flashed a broad smile in his booking photo–and was released hours later on $3,000 bond. A few hours later, the Sheriff’s Office issued a release headlined, “Drug Dealer Arrested With Commissioner’s Help,” in which Sheriff Rick Staly is quoted as thanking Mullins “for immediately reporting this poison peddler” and saying Fisher was now “staying at” the jail, though by then Fisher had bonded out.
Fisher was not charged with trafficking or even possession with attempt to sell drugs–only fentanyl possession, a third-degree felony, and unlawful use of a two-way communication device, a misdemeanor. He is unlikely to serve any more time in jail than the five and a half hours he served this morning, as such first third-degree felony offenses, if prosecuted, usually result in withheld adjudication and probation.
Fisher, a Leidlel Drive resident in Palm Coast, faced a pot possession charge in May. It was dropped. As a 17 year old, he faced an armed robbery charge, the disposition of which is unclear as he was charged as a juvenile.
If and when citizens report drug dealing or dealers to the police, they generally do so with circumspection. Mullins, it appears, was looking to bank on the publicity, with the Sheriff’s Office’s help.
The release includes a long quote from Mullins rhapsodizing about his “duty to get involved knowing that drug dealers are dangerous people and carry guns many times.” He said he hoped Fisher would seek help, and praised deputies who “deserve out full support.” The release coincides with an ongoing struggle between the sheriff and the County Commission as the sheriff tonight will be seeking commissioners’ support for more of a budget increase than the county administration has so far budgeted for the Sheriff’s Office. (See: “Sheriff Plans Show of Force, and Threatens Appeal to Governor, Over Budget Stalemate With County.”
Asked if random calls from drug dealers to individuals’ cell phones are a common occurrence, Strobridge, a former narcotics investigator, said: “I couldn’t tell you. I’d have to ask my guys.” Strobridge said his days in drug investigations go back to the 1980s. “My experience is much different than it is today because in the 80s I had a beeper, not a cell phone.” He said he now receives “hundreds” of texts “for all kinds of activities,” including random solicitations from “dating type” numbers.
The public response to Mullins’s story has not been as rapturous as his own. The Sheriff’s Office posted its release on the agency’s Facebook page. Comments flooded in, overwhelmingly skeptical, sneering, or questioning
Examples, interspersed with accolades for the Sheriff’s Office and at least one for Mullins: “I have a lot of questions about this. Why did a kid that is obviously a drug dealer have Mullins personal number? I hope this gets investigated a bit more.”
“This is hysterical… druggies know who to sell to …lol.”
“Mullins desperate attempt to win favor after bashing the Cops and threatening Trooper’s job. Bet he set this up as a stunt. This kid, obviously, would do anything for $$ …truth will come out. ( Just small enough and young enough to get off with a slap, he was told what to say and do. Wonder how much $$ he got from Joey ?)”
“Drug dealers don’t just text people they don’t know to sell drugs.”
“Oh Boy….Joey saves the day again….remember what he says…. He runs the county🙄
…..some more from his bag of tricks🥸”
“I’m amazed I made it to 48 years old without ever getting a random text from a drug dealer. I must be blessed.”
“Pretty sure he didn’t just randomly just text him🙄 whole thing sounds sketchy.”
“If Mudflaps thinks this erases all his other buffoonery, he has another thing coming. Totally weird of a drug dealer to contact a county commissioner out of the blue and offer hard drugs. 🤔🤔🤔 Might want to look a little deeper in those phone records Staly.”
And so on. The response resembles a similar cascade of sneers last week after the county published on its Facebook page a release announcing Mullins’s appointment to a couple of committees, what amounted essentially to a participation trophy. See those comments here.
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