Ramona man’s name used in pro-drug hoax
By Jessica King
A hoax orchestrated by medical marijuana advocates against their federal nemesis has set off a chain-reaction of collateral damage that includes Ramona resident Dexter Haight.
The 75-year-old Navy retiree’s apparently rare name was used in the recent hoax and he isn’t happy about it. He said he has no idea why his name was chosen when he has never acted out politically or otherwise on either side of the issue.
The morning of July 31, a press release purportedly from U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy was emailed to San Diego County media. It announced a campaign to fight prescription drug abuse by closing pharmacies in beach communities.
Hours later, a man representing himself as Dexter Haight of the so-called Federal Accountability Coalition claimed responsibility for the hoax. No one in the media questioned the use of the name Dexter Haight until later in the day when actor David White copped to falsely representing himself as Dexter Haight, and it was revealed the hoax was in fact the work of Americans for Safe Access, the nation’s largest medical marijuana advocacy group.
White later gave a quasi explanation, saying, “The media was not the target in this. We want to hold the government, and the U.S. Attorney, accountable for their policies. We thought satire was the best way to do that.”
The FBI is reported to be investigating the hoax. As for Haight — the true Haight — he’s yet to receive an explanation as to why his name was chosen.
“I’ve cooled down a little bit,” said Haight on Friday from his San Diego Country Estates home for the past 26 years. As Haight puts it, the smoke is no longer coming out of his ears.
“I’m glad that it’s died down,” Haight continued. “I wish that it had never happened in the first place, but now that it has, I’m interested to see what happens with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, … and if nothing happens, I’m OK with that, too.”
Haight learned of the hoax when a reporter from the San Diego Reader called for comment shortly after the phony press release went out. Haight replied he didn’t know anything about it and ended the call without giving it another thought. Later the same day, a friend who read about it on U-T San Diego’s website called and filled Haight in on the hoax.
Haight immediately requested and received a retraction from the daily newspaper in the form of a follow-up article. He also quickly shot off an email to the U.S. Attorney Office, offering to testify should any criminal action be taken against the perpetrator. As of late Friday afternoon, he had received no reply.
“I just can’t figure out how they picked my name,” he said. “It’s a pretty unusual name and my understanding is I’m the only Dexter Haight in San Diego County, so I just don’t know what to make of it.”
Haight isn’t afraid to stand up for what he believes in. The Navy retiree-turned-civilian Defense Department worker is no stranger to polarizing issues, presiding over the National Rifle Association Members’ Council of Greater San Diego and serving on the board of directors for the Lemon Grove Rod and Gun Club.
As a civilian, he’s testified as an expert in contractor disputes on behalf of the Defense Department.
“I’m not a stranger to the federal courts,” said Haight. “Do I wish to testify? No, not especially, but I admit I often got a real kick ‘crossing swords,’ if you will, with an attorney or expert witness that a contractor put on the stand.”
Haight is strongly against drug abuse and for personal reasons. Haight’s son was a drug addict, having started with marijuana abuse at a young age. Haight said he and his wife of 55 years, Michael Ann, fought long and hard to get their son clean, and it worked.
He was clean and sober for 12 years before dying from a non-drug-related illness in February, said Haight, who spoke with pride in his voice as he talked about his son “getting his act together,” marrying and working hard at his job as a driver, then supervisor.
Haight’s wife also spent many years working for the county’s drug and alcohol services as an analyst and helped create the methamphetamine strike force.
As far as “going after” the actor and anyone else who may have been behind the hoax in civil court, Haight said he hasn’t given it any thought. He just wants to be sure the good reputation he’s spent decades building isn’t soiled.
“I feel very strongly about my reputation,” said Haight. “Folks who know me probably didn’t believe it in the first place, but it’s not the folks who know me I’m worried about, it’s the neighbors who live on either side of me here in the Estates that I worry don’t know what to think about it … My reputation is everything to me.”
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