Somebody snitched. A reliable somebody. So an undercover officer of the Harris County Organized Crime Narcotics Task Force waited outside as the person went into the one-story brown brick house and emerged with a beige rock of crack cocaine.
The informant said he bought the crack, with task force front money, from Richard Millet, right in his kitchen. And there was powdered cocaine for sale as well, the informant told the officer.
The cop requested a search warrant on September 29. At Millet's house the next day, police say, they seized five rocks of crack and five pipes. Six grams, according to police reports, enough to qualify Millet as a dealer.
"He had more than just a user amount there," says the undercover officer, who wanted his name withheld. Also found in the residence were an estimated 300 porn movies and a small quantity of marijuana, sources close to the case say.
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At 7 p.m. September 30, Millet was arrested and charged with possessing and selling crack.
There are lots of men who use crack and lots of men who deal crack. But this man is different. He's middle-aged and white -- and a guy considered by many of his students and their parents as a premier high school chemistry teacher.
"We have information that he was taking it to the school," the officer says. "Whether he was consuming it or selling it, we don't know."
But that is just hearsay, the officer says. He doesn't have solid proof. Like a rock of crack in a kid's locker.
Richard Millet was one of the most loved teachers in Lamar High School's prestigious International Baccalaureate program. The chemistry instructor bought students Chinese food on Fridays, let them watch whatever they wanted on his classroom TV while they ate, and allowed kids to use his computer and store their gym bags in his room.
He wrote his own textbook, cracked jokes, did dances during his lectures and made up a cheer to remember the acids, bases and salts, recalls his former student Anna Moorhead, an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Texas at Austin.
"He was the best teacher I've ever had -- easily," says Marcel Poisot, now a 19-year-old freshman at Johns Hopkins University. "Every day he'd be funny, and he'd make fun of the administration, and everybody would laugh. But secretly they were learning more chemistry than they'd ever learn in college."
Millet started teaching honors chemistry at Lamar in 1975 and had taught IB chemistry since the school's program began 16 years ago.
Last year the problems started. The administration said the IB program was "out of control" ["IB or Not IB," by Wendy Grossman, January 14]. In one attempt to control the teaching staff the administration replaced Millet with a younger instructor, who had never taught a full year of chemistry. Some parents said Millet's class was too hard for high school -- their kids were getting bad grades and being teased by the teacher too much. He gave heavy homework assignments and hard tests. Students say he didn't waste time with those who blew off homework, but he was always ready to help those who did the assignments.
Millet used his native Cajun slang to call students an endearing term for imps. He called both Sarah and Anna Moorhead "Miss Lesshead." Neither of them got out with an A, but the teasing was affection, says their mother, Louise Moorhead. She was one of the parents who fought to get Millet back in the IB classroom last year. Today her daughters are acing chemistry at UT.
At a meeting with Lamar administrators last year, Marcel's father, Jacques Poisot, read a four-page statement outlining the problems with the chemistry course and asking to have Millet reinstated. In the spring semester he was. Parents were happy. But Millet wasn't, Marcel remembers.
"His spirit was crushed by the administration," Marcel says. "I had him before the new regime set in, the 'iron fist,' and he was so animated every day. He was super cool. And I also had him senior year, last year, and he would miss almost every single day, and he was so upset and he'd talk about how he'd fall asleep driving and almost get in wrecks.
"You'd almost see him cry -- just the pressure they put on him, the bullshit they put him through, the lies they put out about him."
Administrators early last summer removed Millet from Lamar and ordered him to report to the Central District Office at the beginning of the school year in August, HISD spokesperson Terry Abbott says, declining to give the reasons.
Millet never showed up and refused to respond to phone calls and registered letters, Abbott says. After several weeks he was terminated for abandonment of duties. Abbott says HISD later learned that he had already taken a position with Awty International School.
Awty officials won't give the official reason they fired Millet October 6. Their motive doesn't seem that hard to figure out, considering that five days earlier he'd been freed from jail on a $20,000 cash bond on the cocaine charge.
In a session earlier this month Millet sits front-row center in state District Judge Bill Harmon's court waiting for his 9 a.m. arraignment. The short, stocky man is almost entirely bald, with white hair fringing his head. He looks quiet and calm, and talks occasionally in a soft Creole accent.
Millet reaches to shake the hand of a Houston Press writer but is stopped by his attorney, Geoffrey Hutson.
"Don't talk to her," the lawyer says, and commands him to leave the courtroom and the reporter. Obediently, head down, he does.
On this day Sylvia Escobedo, the assistant district attorney, doesn't have the search warrant for Hutson to see, so the pretrial matters are postponed. Escobedo says that, assuming the allegations are true, she personally thinks the situation's a tragedy.
"He's a teacher," Escobedo says. "It's a violation of the trust of the community."
But the kids really loved him.
"That's what makes it even worse," she says. "You have a teacher who's likable to the kids, and they start trusting him.I wouldn't want him teaching my children."
She doesn't have kids, but if she did.
Millet did teach Janice Kopp's son. And Chris Kopp had a lot of respect for Millet, she says.
"It's a shame," Kopp says. "I just hate to see a man who's down be beaten up even more. It's a terrible tragedy what happened to the man, and I hope he can pull his life together."
Louise Moorhead agrees. Worried about Millet, she has tried calling and writing him. But she hasn't heard back.
"I'm just real sad," she says. "I hope whatever it is that is wrong gets fixed and he gets back to teaching."
E-mail Wendy Grossman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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