From the 11th Circuit Solicitor’s Office – Michael Jason Harwell, age 40, pled guilty Tuesday in Lexington County General Sessions Court to Possession with Intent to Distribute Fentanyl, Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, and Possession of Heroin, all second offenses. Circuit Court Judge Debra R. McCaslin sentenced Harwell to 25 years suspended to service of 15 years in prison followed by five years of probation. Under South Carolina law, both possession with intent to distribute charges are classified as serious offenses.
Solicitor Rick Hubbard commented: “Prosecuting drug cases is extremely important in Lexington County particularly cases involving fentanyl. We have seen far too many deaths as a result of fentanyl distribution in our county. The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department Narcotics Enforcement Team conducted this investigation and their hard work continues to make our community safer.”
On September 30, 2019, deputies with the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department responded to a report of a stolen vehicle that had fled recently from law enforcement. Upon arrival, deputies located Harwell who, after Miranda warnings were provided, admitted to driving the vehicle and to fleeing from deputies due to having a suspended license. Deputies searched the van and found a quantity of heroin inside of a cigarette pack. Harwell admitted to possessing the heroin.
While out on bond, on August 18, 2020, Harwell was located by the Lexington County Fugitive Task Force at the Quality Inn and Suites in Cayce while serving a warrant. Law enforcement observed drugs and drug paraphernalia in plain view inside the hotel room. The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department Narcotics Enforcement Team responded to the hotel with a search warrant and located a large amount of what was believed to be a heroin and fentanyl mixture, methamphetamine, and numerous other items of drug paraphernalia. Drug analysis determined that the narcotics collected were pure fentanyl and methamphetamine.
Harwell admitted to investigators that the narcotics were his and admitted to selling the drugs. He admitted to purchasing approximately seven (7) grams every other day for distribution purposes and expressed having knowledge that individuals who had purchased from him had overdosed on the drugs. Investigators also accessed Harwell’s cell phone pursuant to a search warrant and cell phone extraction report revealed evidence of dealing heroin and fentanyl as well as advertising of its potency to buyers.
Eleventh Circuit Assistant Solicitors Kyle Smith and Matt Edgerton prosecuted this case. Assistant Solicitor Smith remarked, “Fentanyl is presenting a growing problem here in Lexington County and is another deadly manifestation of the opioid epidemic sweeping the country.” Assistant Solicitor Smith commends the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department Narcotics Enforcement Team for their excellent work on this case stating that “fentanyl is an extremely dangerous substance in the hands of dealers and addicts, and their work has made Lexington County safer today.”
Harwell has prior convictions for hit and run, receiving stolen goods, possession of methamphetamine, possession of a stolen vehicle, and financial transaction card theft. He will be transferred to the South Carolina Department of Corrections to immediately begin service of his prison sentence.