COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — A director busted in May with what was suspected to be nearly $3 million worth of heroin was cleared of drug charges Wednesday after lab tests determined the white powder in his trunk was not drugs, prosecutors said.
Joseph Gatheright, a 22-year-old producer of film and rap videos, claimed last month when he appeared in court that the bags full of white powder and the replica handgun found in his trunk were props for the filming of a video.
He was vindicated Wednesday when prosecutors dropped the charges against him after learning that the white powder had tested negative for drugs, according to the Cook County State's Attorney's Office.
Gatheright was stopped by police on May 26 for failing to use his turn signal in the Gresham neighborhood, according to a police report.
Police pulled Gatheright over in the 1600 block of West 78th Street, an area known for having a lot of gang and drug activity, about 8:30 p.m., according to the report. A witness stopped the officers and alleged that another person in the car with Gatheright had her cellphone.
When Gatheright opened the trunk of the car to retrieve the cellphone, police saw several backpacks containing 23 duct-taped plastic bags containing a white powdery substance and a replica gun, according to the report.
Believing the white powder to be heroin — which, based on its weight, would have a street value of nearly $3 million — police arrested Gatheright for the manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance, prosecutors said.
But attorneys representing the young man argued that Gatheright was a budding film director and said the suspected drugs and weapon in his trunk were fake and to be used in the filming of a video.
"So they're props for filming?" Cook County Judge Donald Panarese Jr. said before ordering Gatheright released from jail.
Gatheright could not immediately be reached for comment.
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