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The strange case of the Powhatan School Board member arrested on cocaine charges is getting stranger.
Sheriff's deputies arrested Germando Lavon Harris, 49, a School Board member for the past 12 years, at a house on Maidens Road Nov. 10 on charges of cocaine possession. Harris maintains he didn't possess anything illegal and was wrongly arrested.
He also maintains his right to give his version of events -- and then retract it.
Reached at home last week by a Style reporter, Harris provided a lengthy narrative on the events surrounding his arrest, then abruptly ended the interview, saying: "Everything I just told you was a lie." He said he made up portions of his story in an attempt to figure out how much a reporter knew about the incident.
"Wrong place at the wrong time is all I can say," Harris began. When asked about his charges, he said that technically, he was arrested for possession of a Schedule II drug, which could mean barbiturates instead of cocaine.
Before he retracted his version of events, Harris said that on the night of the incident, he was baking a cake at home. He'd just taken the butter out of the refrigerator to soften in a bowl when he received a phone call around 8:30 from someone he would not identify whom asking for a ride to the house on Maidens Road. Harris initially said he'd never been to the house, but later revised the statement and said he'd received haircuts there in the past.
When asked about his day job, he replied that he didn't have one, although county records show a business license in his name for Harris Cleaning Service. "I'm a poor, broke black man, and if anybody wants to donate to my defense, they can," he said, telling Style that he had a psychology degree, but declining to say from where.
Over the weekend, news reports named John Rockecharlie, a defense attorney and former prosecutor in Richmond and Chesterfield, as Harris' lawyer, though Rockecharlie said Monday, Nov. 19, that he and Harris were meeting for the first time that day.
Rockecharlie stressed that the burden of proof lay with the commonwealth.
Proving possession of an illegal substance can be tricky, says former Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney David Hicks. "Proximity with nothing more isn't enough for conviction in Virginia," he says. "You can be sitting at the table with a big 'Scarface' pile of cocaine, and if you keep your mouth shut, a good lawyer can still get you off."
The sheriff's office says it had been targeting the address as part of a sting operation for some time and was surprised to find Harris along with Kelly Lashawn Jackson, 27, and Charles Edward Turner, 26, when they arrived.
They arrested all three. Harris was charged with possession, Jackson was charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine and Turner was charged with two counts of possession and one charge of larceny. SClick here for more News and Features