UF professor arrested on drug charge

Published: Sunday, January 18, 2009 at 5:27 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 18, 2009 at 5:27 p.m.

A University of Florida professor of anthropology was arrested Saturday night in the 900 block of NW 4th Place and charged with the sale of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a church, according to the Gainesville Police Department.

Michael J. Heckenberger, who has been a professor at UF since 1999, was approached by a Gainesville police car near Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ and was observed throwing a small plastic bag, the arrest report said.

The bag was collected by the police officer, and it tested positive for cocaine.

According to the report, after he was arrested Heckenberger said he was attempting to trade the cocaine for sexual favors with a man who the officer had seen him with moments before.

Heckenberger told police, according to the report, that the cocaine was not his but that he had the cocaine because he was "curious."

Steve Orlando, a spokesman for UF, said that Heckenberger, 46, had been placed on administrative leave following the arrest and that a substitute professor would take over his classes temporarily.

"We really have to look at each individual thing on it's own and handle (each) on a case-by-case basis," said Orlando, adding that it is still an open investigation.

Heckenberger specializes in the anthropological study of Brazilian and Caribbean cultures and has been published a number of times.

"He's really a gifted researcher," Orlando said. "He's done work that's been funded by the National Science Foundation on people in the Amazon and their civilizations."

Heckenberger was released from the Alachua County Jail on $25,000 bail Sunday afternoon.

Megan Rolland can be reached at 338-3104 or megan.rolland@gvillesun.com.

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