Suffolk teen who distributed drug-laced candy gets probation

Published 4:20 pm Wednesday, July 15, 2020

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A Suffolk teen will serve five years of supervised probation for his role in the distribution of drug-laced candy to Southampton High School students last year.

In May, Jaden Devon Phillips, 19, entered an Alford plea in Southampton County Circuit Court to one felony count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt, but concedes that the prosecution’s evidence is likely sufficient to return a guilty verdict at trial. It is the same as a guilty plea for sentencing purposes.

As a result of the plea deal, two additional charges — distribution of drugs to a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor — were not prosecuted. The former is a felony and the latter a Class 1 misdemeanor. He was subsequently sentenced to five years in prison with four years and one month suspended, and granted time served for the remaining 11 months.

Per the terms of his release, he must surrender his driver’s license for six months and pay court costs in the amount of $628. He can, however, apply for a restricted driver’s license.

On the day of the crime — June 11, 2019 — eight high school students ingested candy laced with a then-unknown substance and became ill enough to require hospitalization. At Phillips’ bond hearing on June 18, Southampton County Commonwealth Attorney Eric Cooke listed nausea, high heart rates and dizziness as symptoms students experienced after ingesting the candy. All eight recovered and were eventually released from Southampton Memorial Hospital.

According to court documents, a female SHS student had sold packets of Gummi candies for a couple of dollars apiece to her classmates, under the impression that the candy was infused with marijuana. This student, when detained by Southampton County sheriff’s deputies, had identified Phillips as her source.