Former CMU running back Austin White to stand trial on drug charges
Former CMU football player Austin White will stand trial later this month for his role in allegedly growing and selling hallucinogenic mushrooms and maintaining a drug house in his Celani Residence Hall room.
White, a Livonia junior, appeared in Isabella County Trial Court Thursday for a hearing before Judge William Rush. White and Illinois sophomore Joe Sawicki, former members of the CMU football team, were arrested last month by CMU police for allegedly growing and selling mushrooms containing the narcotic psilocybin.
Attorney Mary Chartier, hired to represent White, maintains her client is innocent.
CMU police detective Mike Sienkiewicz, testifying before Rush and Isabella County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Risa Scully, said the whole incident began April 11 when he and sergeant Mike Morrow obtained a warrant to search Celani 001 for a stolen Apple iPhone.
White, Sawicki, Detroit sophomore Deon Butler, also a member of the CMU football team, and West Bloomfield sophomore Dave Boester were listed as living in the terrace-level room.
Sienkiewicz said the two received no response originally when they knocked on the door but were eventually let in by Butler, who was down the hall at the time.
After asking to see the phones of all three occupants — Sawicki was gone at the time — it was determined none of them matched the description of the stolen iPhone, Sienkiewicz said. Officers then told all three they were going to search the bathrooms.
“It was at that point Austin White stood up and asked to use the bathroom,” Sienkiewicz told Scully.
Before officers allowed White to use the bathroom, they opened the door and found a 54-quart tub containing “large pellet material,” one large mushroom and several small mushrooms sitting on the bathroom floor, Sienkiewicz said.
“It was the first thing you could see,” he told Scully, concluding with Morrow that mushrooms were being grown.
Sienkiewicz said lab tests confirmed that the contents of the tub came back positive for psilocybin.
Sienkiewicz left the residence hall to retrieve a search warrant for the rest of the room. During that time, Morrow said he had “loose conversation” with Butler and White, during which White acknowledged, “he had seen them before, but (the tub) wasn’t his.”
Morrow described White as “very cooperative,” even consenting to a search of his bedroom. Nothing relating to drugs or mushrooms was found.
When Sienkiewicz returned with a search warrant, he and Morrow then searched Sawicki’s locked bedroom. Inside, they found an additional plastic tub, a plastic cabinet containing a legal pad of paper with various ingredients consistent to growing hallucinogenic mushrooms and a humidity/temperature sensor, Sienkiewicz said.
Sienkiewicz said he talked to White on the phone “several times” the following day, April 12, to set up a follow-up meeting.
“He never did show up at the department,” using excuses that he had to go to class or eat, Sienkiewicz said.
Sawicki was arrested April 17 on charges of delivering/manufacturing narcotics, possession and maintaining a drug house. White turned himself in to police April 18, approximately 24 hours after a warrant for his arrest was issued. Both were immediately kicked off the football team by CMU head coach Dan Enos.
Butler: White, Sawicki ‘excited’ about project
Butler, who recently entered into a plea agreement for his role in receiving and concealing the stolen iPhone, lived with White and Sawicki all year in Celani.
Testifying before Judge Rush Thursday, Butler said he first saw the tub at the beginning of the semester.
“(Austin) said it was a project,” Butler said. “When I asked him more about it, Austin went to say something but Joe cut him off.”
Butler said he shared a bathroom with Boester, but did not hang out with him.
Boester was the only person living in the room not charged with a crime.
White and Sawicki shared their own bathroom. Butler said he did not see Sawicki growing mushrooms in their room, but acknowledged a lot of people were coming and going from the room.
“To this day, I don’t know what a mushroom is,” Butler said. “I thought you eat mushrooms.”
Sienkiewicz said Sawicki later told officers “he was responsible, along with others” for the mushrooms, referencing White and teammate Kevin King, a sophomore who lived down the hall from White and Sawicki.
King has not been charged with a crime, but remains “indefinitely suspended” from the football program.
Sawicki has entered into a settlement convention Friday, according to court records. He is due back in court June 22 for sentencing.
After agreeing to meet with CMU police on April 13, Butler said he had “loose conversation” with White, but the mystery tub never came up.
“He told me he was sorry for bringing all these problems to the football team, and that he was tricked into Joe’s project,” Butler said.
White was suspended indefinitely from the CMU football team in October for reasons unknown. He was later reinstated by Enos.
Butler is expected to receive probation for his role in stealing the iPhone. Teammate Danel Harris, who was also kicked off the team, plead guilty to felony larceny from a vehicle earlier this month.
During his testimony, Butler, a wide receiver recruited by Enos from Inkster High School, acknowledged he had been suspended, but said “he just got back on the team.”
Team spokesman Scott Rex refuted that statement Friday, saying Butler remains suspended indefinitely until he can achieve benchmarks set internally by the program before summer camp.
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