A federal judge in Texarkana, Ark., granted an accused drug trafficker's request Thursday to remain free while his case proceeds.
Larry Peters Jr., 36, appeared with Texarkana lawyer John Pickett for a detention hearing before U.S. Magstrate Judge Barry Bryant in a third-floor courtroom of Texarkana's downtown federal building. He is charged in a one-count indictment with conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of methamphetamine in January 2018.
Peters of Prescott, Ark., pleaded not guilty to the charge at a court appearance May 31. He faces 10 years to life in federal prison if convicted.
At the beginning of his detention hearing Thursday morning, Assistant U.S. Attorney Graham Jones submitted copies of an FBI report and a copy of Peters' criminal history for the court's consideration but did not call any witnesses. Pickett called his mother, Clintona Peters.
Clintona Peters testified under questioning from Pickett that she will provide housing, transportation and a watchful eye should her son be granted release. She promised that she will contact authorities should her son violate the conditions of his release by using drugs, violating his curfew or fail to make a court-ordered meeting. Clintona Peters said she has arranged employment for her son as well.
Under cross examination from Jones, Clintona Peters testified that the son her car was allegedly observed driving while conducting drug deals is registered in her name because her son asked her to be listed as owner. Jones also asked Clintona Peters about her husband, Larry Peters Sr., who is serving a term of parole from an Arkansas state court for selling crack cocaine.
Clintona Peters said, "Yes," when Jones asked her if her husband is known as "Gas Man" and her son as "Little Gas Man or Gas Man Jr." She denied knowing her husband of 35 years or her son were engaged in the sale of illegal drugs prior to their arrests.
Under additional questioning by Pickett, Clintona Peters agreed that her husband's parole could be jeapordized if her son were to move in and engage in criminal conduct, giving the family additional motive to monitor Larry Peters Jr.
Jones argued that the safety of the community is at risk should Larry Peters Jr. be freed.
"He was unemployed for months but he can get right back to work if he's released," Jones said, referring to testimony from Clintona Peters that her son has not worked since February 2018 but has managed to pay his rent. "This is not a safe situation for the community. He's going to be living with the man whose life he has been emulating."
Pickett argued that Peters is unlikely to present a danger if he follows conditions of release set by the court and noted that his client's only felony conviction occurred when he was younger than than 20.
Bryant agreed to release Larry Peters Jr. on a $5,000 unsecured appearance bond. Except for travel to and from work, to and from visits with pretrial services personnel and other court appearances, he must remain on house arrest. Bryant mentioned that Peters successfully completed a misdemeanor term of probation recently.
"Drug trafficking is dangerous to the community, but I believe the conditions of release will ameliorate those," Bryant said.
Bryant ordered that Larry Peters Jr. is to participate in any form of drug treatment or counseling or mental health treatment or counseling should the U.S. Probation Office supervising him order him to do so.
"I meant what I said," Bryant warned. "You could come out of prison an old man if things go poorly for you. You must comply or I will issue a warrant for your arrest."
The case is scheduled for trial July 25 before U.S. District Judge Susan Hickey in the Texarkana Division of the Western District of Arkansas.