by Clay Herrmann– Roving Reporter
for Hot Springs Daily
According to Hal & Michelle Stanley, when Garland County Sheriff’s Department deputies, including Chief Deputy Jason Lawrence and GCSD Investigator Michael Wright came knocking on their door late-afternoon on January 12th of this year they weren’t there for a bowl of the aromatic gumbo simmering on the stove. Instead of greeting the friends they were expecting for dinner they were presented with the astonishing sight of what eventually became approximately a dozen vehicles parked in their driveway and along the road in front of their home.
Included were vehicles from the Sheriff’s Department, State Police, and DHS. There was an ambulance with a physician onboard as part of a tactical response team, and a marked car from the Coroner’s Office was also present. There was reported to be an entire tactical response team participating, with two groups set up in separate locations on nearby roads, presumably situated where they could engage a fleeing vehicle, should that contingency arise, or to advance quickly to the residence should “a Waco type scenario” develop. There were reports from neighbors claiming there was a sniper seen in the ditch across the road and an additional report of another person with a shotgun supposed to be part of a tactical team, partially concealed in brush along one of the Stanley’s side property lines. Both allegedly had weapons aimed toward the Stanleys on their front porch where they were being detained.
According to their account, the seventy-three year old father and his forty-five year old pregnant wife were asked to step out onto their front porch several times before they complied. Once on the porch and the door closed, they were then served a search warrant and told they could no longer go back inside. What they were NOT given was the “Affidavit for Search Warrant” which according to Circuit Judge Lynn Williams is required to be attached to the search warrant.
Was the failure to provide the Stanley’s the required affidavit intentional on the part of Investigator Wright? That is a question he may not wish to answer. If the answer is no, then professional competence might be in question. If the answer is yes it would indicate deliberate disregard for the law.
In any event, had the Stanley’s been provided the affidavit and had they been able to read it on the front end, they would not have had to wait till the end of the approximately five-hour long takeover of their home before finding out that law enforcement had been intending to remove their children all along. This despite DHS investigator Lenny Robison’s announced conclusion to GCSD Deputy Mike Wright and others on the scene that there was no imminent danger to the children and that DHS was refusing to remove the children. Additionally the physician on-the-scene stated that he had found no evidence of harm to the children, and no indication of any immediate danger.
Pre-determined intent to remove the children, however, is stated in the Affidavit for Search Warrant. After being unavailable for approximately three months, that document was finally located on Friday afternoon, April 10th, thanks to direct hands-on intervention by Circuit Judge Lynn Williams (more on that later).
The Stanley’s were kept on the porch for a period of about 2 1/2 hours on a frigid January day and were not permitted to get a coat for protection against the cold when they asked to do so. They were not allowed to be present for the prolonged interrogation of their children. Nor were they allowed to be present for the unwelcome detailed medical examination of their children by a physician unknown to the Stanley’s who came as part of the Tactical Response Team.
Interestingly the original-packaging bottle of MMS product with what remained of its contents inside the bottle was not taken in the execution of the search warrant, according to the Stanley’s. They have provided Hot Springs Daily a photo which they affirm was taken the day after the search showing the bottle still containing a quantity of the offending substance sitting on the bathroom shelf … the very same shelf from which the “brown bottle” listed on the Search Warrant Return was seized. Mr. Stanley stated that the single bottle of MMS is the only he ever purchased. It was bought online, is still available online, is not a “controlled substance”, and is entirely legal to possess.
The Stanley’s alleged crime was not possession, manufacture, or distribution of Meth in the county that Sheriff Mike McCormick reports has reputation as the “Meth capitol of the State”. Nor was it possession, distribution, or use of heroin, or any other controlled or illegal substance. (Evidently serving warrants at the many Garland County homes with children in them where those activities are known to be going on can wait.) Rather, the allegation made against the Stanley parents is that the legal MMS substance was used in ways that criminally endangered the well-being of the children.
The bottle and remaining MMS left on the bathroom shelf has since been disposed of … by the Stanleys. Those executing the search warrant did however inexplicably confiscate a bottle of hydrogen peroxide as listed on the Search Warrant Return. Against the objections of DHS personnel on the scene, and contrary to the task force physician, after dark on that Monday night, they also confiscated seven minor children and took them away.
Hopefully there will be a careful review and discussion of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by all county law enforcement personnel. Having raised their right hands on January 1st, 2015 and sworn (or solemnly affirmed) to uphold the Constitution, it would seem appropriate that they should actually know what it says. This should be especially true of the Fourth Amendment for law enforcement personnel dealing with warrants. Concisely written in unambiguous language it reads:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
(The seven persons seized in execution of the search warrant at the Stanley home were not “particularly described” on the search warrant as is required and the “MMS” substance that was “particularly described” in the warrant was left behind!)
But back to the subject of the missing Affidavit for Search Warrant. Following the nightmare at their home, the Stanley’s became aware that there was supposed to be an affidavit attached to the single page search warrant they were served. The attorney they have engaged to represent them, Q Byrum Hurst, was also aware of the missing affidavit. Their repeated efforts to discover if it existed, and if so to obtain a copy from the Circuit Clerk’s office, from the Juvenile Court, or elsewhere were all unsuccessful. Attorney Q Byrum Hurst stated that in response to their subpoena of GCSD Investigator Michael Wright for a deposition, his response was that he didn’t have to tell them anything because there was an ongoing criminal investigation.
In hopes of being able to find out something regarding the missing affidavit, I went to the Judge who signed the search warrant on the second floor of the County Courthouse. Circuit Judge Lynn Williams was able to see me shortly after I arrived, and confirmed that there had to be an affidavit attached to the warrant. We discussed the fact that the Stanleys were not provided a copy of the affidavit which is referenced as attached in the search warrant, and that despite repeated efforts on the part of the Stanley’s legal counsel they were unable to procure a copy or even to verify the existence of the affidavit. I had also been unsuccessful in getting information on the case from the Circuit Clerk, the Juvenile Court, or the Sheriff’s office, all three citing confidentiality of Juvenile Court.
Judge Williams explained that he is NOT a Juvenile Judge, and that he signed a search warrant that alleged criminal activity. He considered that his search warrant, affidavit, and return should be filed as a public record with the Circuit Clerk … with his Circuit Clerk at the other end of the hall, and so saying removed his judicial black robe inviting me to accompany him as he got to the bottom of this. His armed Court Security Officer accompanied us as well, and we followed Judge Williams as he proceeded with deliberation down the hall, into the Circuit Clerk’s entry, and deeper in to where the ladies were who take care of his court records.
“We don’t have it. It never passed through here” he was told. They suggested that it must be at Juvenile Court, which is where the Court Security Officer and I promptly followed Judge Williams to next. Breezing by security with the Judge, I waited in a chair while his Honor went after his search warrant package. But he returned empty-handed.
He explained that fellow Circuit Judge Wade Naramore was present in the building, but his court was in session. He further remarked that a judge can go into another judge’s courtroom and interrupt the proceedings to let the presiding judge know that a brief word was needed with him outside … which he did. “Can’t dare do that when you are just a lawyer.” As it turned out, Juvenile Court didn’t have the search warrant package either.
“That leaves only one place left where it could be”, Judge Williams pronounced. The Court Security Officer and I followed him to the Sheriff’s Office. Again I sat in a chair and waited as sheriff department personnel worked to locate GCSD Criminal Investigator Sgt. Michael Wright for Judge Williams. The Judge eventually went through a secure door to the right of the welcome counter of the Sheriff’s office. He was gone for perhaps fifteen minutes give or take a little, but emerged with papers in hand accompanied by Sgt. Wright.
“I want to show you the originals of these before making you a copy,” Judge Williams said addressing me now standing beside him at the counter along with Deputy Wright and several other persons in audience. He carefully described what each sheet was, one page at a time, as he laid them down spread out side-by-side: Search Warrant, two-page Affidavit for the Search Warrant, Search Warrant Return with hand-written itemization of property seized at the Stanley home, and a typed copy (for legibility) of the Return. Deputy Wright made me a copy of all five pages which I accepted with gratitude. Shaking hands with Judge Williams and Deputy Wright, I thanked them and left with a copy of all five pages of the Stanley Search Warrant package, which you can now view here.
The following Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request was submitted to Garland County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy of Enforcement, Jason Lawrence, on April 13, 2015. He responded with a note that he had forwarded the request to Sheriff Mike McCormick who is the custodian of record for the Sheriff’s Office: