Ex-Atlantic Beach police chief sentenced on drug charges
Classey: 'I was making insane decisions'; ex-chief gets 5 years' probation
ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – The former Atlantic Beach police chief who found himself on the wrong side of the law was sentenced to probation Wednesday for a number of drug charges.
Michael Classey, 50, spoke publicly about his arrest for the first time Wednesday afternoon at his sentencing hearing.
He had already pleaded guilty to five felony charges, including possessing illegal steroids and medication and tampering with evidence. He stepped down from his position after his arrest.
Judge Tatiana Salvador gave him five years of drug probation and ordered he give up his law enforcement certification, meaning he can never be a cop in Florida again. But she decided not to convict him, because it was his first time in trouble with the law. That means when Classey's probation ends, he won't be considered a convicted felon.
Salvador made it very clear that she wasn't doing Classey any favors. She said she saw him as any other person in her courtroom. She looked into his history, found that it was sparkling clean and decided that probation and treatment would be best, just as it is for most first-time offenders.
Classey originally faced 21 counts. He pleaded guilty to possession of alpozolam, metheolone, methasterone, a controlled substance and tampering with evidence.
Prosecutors did not seek any jail time. Classey was also ordered to complete 100 hours of community service, attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings five days a week and pay $700 in restitution. A previous order said Classey also must pay $11,000 in restitution to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Salvador said Classey tarnished the image of law enforcement and that "having the case front and center in the media does not do well for the public trust."
During the sentencing hearing, Classey said he regretted what he did.
"I cannot sit here and even contemplate that I did the things that I did. I've always been one that has said that you hold police officers to a higher standard," Classey said. "I have completely violated the standard to which I have conducted the past 22 years of my life. I've done that to myself. And I can't tell you how devastating that is to me and how sorry I am that I've done that."
Classey resigned in September after the FDLE said it intercepted shipments of drugs Classey ordered from India.
According to a search warrant, investigators took the following from Classey's house:
- A bottle of hydrocodone
- A box containing steroids
- 13 bottles and boxes of prescription medication believed to be steroids
- Two prescription bottles containing unknown pills
- One box containing numerous empty bottles of prescription drugs
- A duffel bag containing 11 plastic bags containing steroids
Classey said during the sentencing hearing that because of weight and back problems, he sought treatment at an anti-aging rejuvenation clinic and was prescribed steroids. He said he lost 45 pounds in several months and became healthier.
But he said beginning in 2014, he made some bad decisions. He said because the medications he was prescribed were elective, they were very expensive, and he found them much cheaper online.
He said many of his problems stemmed from a battle with alcoholism that he sought treatment for in 2009. He said those problems led to divorce.
"I was making insane decisions that I cannot sit here today and give you a sane answer for," Classey said. "In my position, I knew I was under the spotlight. I knew I had to maintain my public image. But I drank at home. It was not a good time. I did not like myself, quite honestly."
He said he was confronted by several FDLE agents at a UPS store as he was picking up a package.
"I knew at that moment that life as I knew it was then over," Classey said. "And my career was just a part of that."
The day after the confrontation, agents served a search warrant and seized a large amount of steroids and pain pills. He cooperated with the FDLE agents.
But the prosecutor pointed out that Classey got rid of the computer he used to buy the drugs, leading to the tampering with evidence charge. Classey said he only did it because he saw the device as the object that caused him to get into trouble.
"My intent was not to remove evidence," Classey said. "Had I done that I would have removed all the drugs in my house."
Several of Classey's friends and colleagues, including former Atlantic Beach Mayor Mike Borno, former Atlantic Beach city attorney Alan Jensen and former Atlantic Beach city commissioner Theo Mitchelson, testified on his behalf, noting his exemplary service and unblemished record.
"My axiom is would I be willing to put my life on the line and go to sea with someone on the crew," Borno said. "And I would do that with the drop of the hat for Mike Classey."
Classey finished by asking Salvador for mercy.
"I just am asking you to please give me a second chance to start over because this is not the person who I am," Classey said.
Classey said he's doing well in AA; he's been active about six months already. He also said he's putting his life in God's hands, and he's determined to make the best of the situation. He said he hopes to go back to school and start a new career.
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