Suspended DeLand City Commissioner Jeff Hunter will be required to stay out of trouble for two years and follow a list of conditions as part of a deal to avoid more serious punishment for a drug charge he was arrested on last year.
Hunter, 59, who was elected to the DeLand City Commission in 2016, was arrested June 27, 2018, and charged with the sale or delivery of hydrocodone — an opioid drug more popularly known as Vicodin — a second-degree felony. Prosecutors later amended the charge to possession of the same drug, a third-degree felony.
Hunter and the State Attorney’s Office entered into a pretrial intervention contract, filed May 14, allowing him to avoid a conviction and more serious punishment, if he follows certain conditions.
Pretrial intervention contracts are sometimes used in cases involving first-time offenders charged with nonviolent felonies. They are a form of deferred prosecution, allowing offenders deemed less dangerous to avoid being found guilty of a charge.
Under the deal, Hunter must maintain or seek gainful employment, or education as a full-time student; pay a number of monthly fees; “not use intoxicants to excess”; and perform 75 hours of community service.
Also, he cannot leave the county without permission, among other things.
At the time of his arrest, Hunter said the charges were fabricated by a woman he dated briefly in 2017. He pleaded not guilty to the charge and was released from jail hours after his arrest, on $25,000 bail.
According to a charging affidavit in the case, investigators found more than 120 voicemail messages from Hunter on the phone of the woman he had dated. In several of the messages, Hunter seemed to either offer her pills, or acknowledge giving her some earlier.
In a few of the messages, Hunter accused the woman of stealing the pills from him.
The investigation into Hunter was started and the messages were discovered after Hunter told detectives from the Sheriff's Office in October 2017 that he had been defrauded by the then-24-year-old DeLand woman.
The Beacon is not naming the woman because she has not been charged with a crime.
Her boyfriend, Jose Santiago, was arrested in December 2017 on extortion charges, after he allegedly demanded money from the commissioner under threat of giving police evidence against Hunter.
Hunter previously said the current charge against him is the woman’s attempt to get back at him for having Santiago arrested. Santiago pleaded no contest to the charge and was sentenced earlier this month to five years' probation.
In sworn statements, the woman told investigators Hunter had provided her pills from his hydrocodone prescription between seven and 10 times. Another condition of the agreement is for Hunter to avoid contact with the woman.
Hunter was suspended from his post as city commissioner by then-Gov. Rick Scott about two weeks after his arrest.
The remaining four DeLand city commissioners appointed former Commissioner Charles Paiva to serve the remainder of his term.
While the law provides for Hunter to be reinstated if he is found not guilty before his term ends in November 2020, the period of his intervention contract runs beyond the remainder of his term.