DECATUR – Keith Halliburton took a big step toward getting out of jail Thursday, but he's not free yet.
Macon County Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith reduced his bail from $1 million to a $50,000 recognizance bond, meaning he doesn't have to put up any money, in a court hearing, but Halliburton was sent back to the Macon County Jail because he remains subject to a “hold” based on a previous federal case.
Halliburton had been facing charges of being a drug dealer after Decatur police said they arrested him in possession of 27 pounds of cannabis and a quarter kilo of cocaine in March of 2016.
But that case is in trouble after Griffith had earlier ruled that police violated the terms of a search warrant in their arrest of Halliburton, 37. The judge then ordered all the drug evidence, along with incriminating statements made by Halliburton, to be suppressed.
The Macon County State's Attorney's Office is appealing that ruling and presented evidence Thursday, including a recorded conversation from jail, that tried to portray Halliburton as a major-league drug dealer who knows no other way to make a living. The prosecution argued Halliburton should still be the subject of a substantial bond.
Griffiths disagreed and announced the bond reduction, saying “you are ordered released on this case” before pointing out to Halliburton, dressed in a black and gray prison jumpsuit, that he must remain in custody until the federal proceedings are resolved.
The federal case dates back to a previous narcotics conviction in 1999 in which Halliburton had received a 20-year sentence for cocaine possession. He was supposed to be at a half-way house when Decatur police arrested him in a sting operation tied to the delivery of a 19-pound cannabis shipment sent by parcel post. Other drugs were then allegedly found in his vehicle.
Halliburton's lawyer, Todd Ringel, had successfully argued that police had denied Halliburton his constitutional rights by arresting him before the drug package he picked up had actually been opened.
Halliburton's family were delighted after Thursday's bond reduction ruling and believe he will soon be home with them. Halliburton's wife and the mother of six children, Dara Halliburton, said Ringel's law firm, the Johnson Law Group, will now be retained to act for the family to resolve the outstanding federal issue.
“I prayed, and God sent me Mr. Ringel,” said Dara Halliburton, 37, speaking after Thursday's hearing. “ My husband is not a bad person, and we want to get back to raising our kids. He has a passion for his kids.”
Dara Halliburton said she had been angry earlier when a police detective called to give evidence Thursday described her as receiving a call from her husband while in jail in which he asked her to make contact with his drug supplier. Dara Halliburton said the call had been nothing to do with drugs.
“And I don't do that (drug dealing),” she added. “I'm a worker; I work hard for me and my kids.”
But in testimony during Thursday's hearing, detective Jeff Hockaday said he believed her husband was trying to “continue the drug enterprise even though locked up.”
Under questioning from Assistant State's Attorney Jane Foster, Hockaday had described Halliburton as a major drug dealer who knew “nothing else” and, at one time, was thought to be the biggest dealer in the city.
Hockaday said Halliburton had once offered to be a police informant but had been turned down because it was feared he was just “looking for a license to sell drugs in our community.”
The judge, however, said he had to deal with the case before him and, with the evidence removed, there was no reason not to reduce Halliburton's bond and clear the way for his release.
Speaking after the hearing, Ringel said he had no idea what the nature of the federal “hold” on his client was. He said it could be anything from other charges to a parole violation.
“And we'll be more than happy to represent Mr. Halliburton in the federal matter,” he said.