Michael Phelps smoking pot on a college campus — you may not remember, but this was a story a little while back. The corn-slingers at Kellogg’s were pissed, some media outlets overreacted, and then everyone went about forgetting about Michael Phelps for a few years. After all, we as a nation face broad-ranging uncertainty in almost every facet of our daily lives. The federal government, as well as states and municipalities all over the nation, are finding it increasingly difficult to do even the most basic things, and fire departments, hospitals and police departments are facing budget shortfalls that…wait, this guy has a fucking Armored Personnel Carrier with a turret-mounted 50mm machine gun?

I’m sorry, let’s go back: “this guy” is Sheriff Leon Lott, the slim-fit Buford Pusser impersonator who is currently sinking all his department’s resources into trying to bust Michael Phelps for hitting a bong at a USC frat party. The fine for this offense is $570, but considering that Lott already purchased a multi-million dollar military assault vehicle on behalf of a county with an average per capita income of $24,988 — and that Lott himself was known around the county, according to the AP, “for wearing stylish suits like the drug agents on ‘Miami Vice’ and driving a Porsche seized from a drug dealer” before his rise to sheriff — it’s clear that Lott’s relationship to money is unconventional. The AP’s Jeffrey Collins, via Yahoo, provides what’s probably the definitive overview of Lott’s self-promoting celebrity hunt dogged attempt to bring Phelps to justice:

Defense attorney Dick Harpootlian and fellow defense attorney Joseph MuCulloch [who represent the USC students charged with marijuana possession] said deputies searched at least two houses. The men told their lawyers the raids went down like a major drug bust, and 12 deputies burst into the home with guns drawn, pulling small amounts of marijuana from those arrested. Several computers and storage devices were also seized, Harpootlian said.

The lawyers did not release the names of their clients, but Harpootlian said that his client didn™t even see Phelps smoke marijuana at the party. McCulloch said his client was out of town, and only lived at the home when the party happened. Both men have since moved.

œAfter they arrested him, they didn™t ask him where did you get the marijuana or who sold it to you. Almost all the questions they asked him were about Michael Phelps, Harpootlian said. He added: œIt was like they were busting the biggest heroin distributor in the country.

The investigators appear to be trying to build a case against Phelps from others”a tactic normally used to bring down drug dealers with a large amounts of cocaine or methamphetamine, not someone who smoked marijuana five months ago, said Chip Price, a Greenville attorney who has dealt with drug cases for 33 years. œNever have I seen anything like this on a simple marijuana case, Price said.

The article also mentions the challenges — to basic logic, as well as cost-related — to arresting Phelps in Baltimore and then extraditing him to South Carolina. But, again, for a guy with a 50mm belt-fed machine gun mounted on a quasi-tank, it’s hard to imagine money being much of an object. Or shame. Consider this part two in a series I cannot wait to stop writing. Thanks to Brendan Flynn for the heads-up on this.