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Tourist Jailed For 17 Days After Snorting White Substance

January 11, 1985

MIAMI (AP) _ A West German tourist is suing the city after being jailed for 17 days for snorting a white powder that turned out to be a popular European snuff made of grape sugar.

Frank Wolfgang Mueller was on a holiday visit to Miami in 1983 when a police officer spotted him snorting a ″powdery white substance″ in Bayfront Park early New Year’s Day. Mueller was arrested and charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

Mueller said he tried to explain to police that the 1.5 grams of white powder in the vial he was carrying was grape sugar, a common decongestant in his home country.

The bottle was labeled ″schnuphtabak″ and ″Traubenzucker,″ the German words for snuff tobacco and grape sugar.

Six days later, a lab analysis confirmed Mueller’s contention. But he wasn’t freed for another 11 days.

Miami police spokesman Angelo Bitsis blamed the 11-day delay on the state attorney’s office, saying it is that office’s duty to see that a prisoner is freed when lab tests are negative.

Abe Laeser, deputy chief assistant state attorney, said his office didn’t receive the lab report until Jan. 16.

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, was filed Tuesday in Dade Circuit Court by attorney Alan Hockman. It claims Mueller ″will suffer humiliation and mental pain and disgrace for the rest of his natural life.″

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