An Alabama man was arrested on drug charges last week based on an “anonymous tip,” days after he publicly criticized a local sheriff over use of prison funds.
Matthew Qualls, 20, was arrested Thursday on multiple drug-related charges after the Rainbow City Police Department and the Etowah County Drug Enforcement unit responded to an anonymous call that reported the smell of marijuana coming from an apartment where Qualls and a friend were found inside, AL.com reported, citing the police report.
Qualls, never before arrested, was featured in a report just four days before his arrest, questioning Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin’s use of funds meant to feed county jail inmates.
The report published by AL.com revealed that some Alabama sheriffs were keeping thousands of dollars of public funds that were meant to feed inmates because of a law that allowed them to keep any surplus not spent on provisions. Some sheriffs’ refusal to show spending records has stirred up controversy.
Qualls, who was paid to mow Entrekin’s lawn in 2015, was quoted in the story asking why he was receiving checks for his services with checks paid for via a “Sheriff Todd Entrekin Food Provision Account” when he knew of individuals in jail who had gone without meals.
"I saw that in the corner of the checks it said Food Provision, and a couple people I knew came through the jail, and they say they got meat maybe once a month and every other day it was just beans and vegetables," Qualls told AL.com.
According to an arrest warrant signed by Sheriff Entrekin, authorities found “1,042 grams of cannabis” inside the apartment; however, the Rainbow City police report stated that officers actually found only a few grams of intact cannabis and a container of cannabis-infused butter.
Rainbow City Police Capt. John Bryant said that his department wouldn’t count the entire weight of the butter as a drug, in contrast with the County Drug Enforcement Unit, which does.
Phil Sims, deputy commander of the Drug Enforcement Unit, said that “once that marijuana was mixed with the butter, then the whole butter becomes marijuana, and that's what we weighed.”
Although Natalie Barton, spokeswoman for the Rainbow City Police Department, said that the Qualls case “belongs to and was imitated by” RCPD, Qualls was also charged by Etowah County.
As of Tuesday, Qualls was still behind bars in lieu of $55,000 bail.
According to the Etowah County Sheriff's Office, he is being charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance, two counts of drug paraphernalia, one count of possession of marijuana in the second degree, and one count of drug trafficking.