EAST ST. LOUIS — A 72-year-old man was in federal court on Tuesday on charges that he was dealing methadone, which is a syththetic form of heroin.
Joe L. Mitchell, of 727 N. 72nd St. in East St. Louis, entered a plea of not guilty on a charge of possession with intent to distribute methadone before U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifford Proud.
Mitchell dropped his cane during the arraignment on the charges that could net him a prison sentence of 20 years and a $1 million fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Porter, who is heading the probe into the St. Clair County courthouse drug scandal, will prosecute the case, though Tuesday's arraignment was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Scott.
A federal grand jury indicted Mitchell in August. The indictment stated that Mitchell possessed with the intent to distribute methadone from January 2011 to June 1, 2013.
Proud reviewed a financial statement submitted by Mitchell and appointed the federal public defender's office to represent Mitchell.
During the hearing, Scott recommended that Mitchell be released on a $10,000 unsecured bond, but U.S. Probation recommended detention. Proud didn't state the nature of probation's concerns and probation reports are sealed.
Scott acknowledged that she was reluctant to make a recommendation because she "wasn't sure if Mr. Porter was aware of some of the issues raised today by probation today."
Ethan Skaggs, a federal public defender, argued for Mitchell's release, stated that he was no danger to the community, he was under the care of a doctor, he would appear for court and his criminal history was "ancient."
Mitchell was convicted of felony theft in St. Clair County in 1995. In 1986 and 1987, he was convicted of the misdemeanor of possession of a hypodermic needle.
Proud noted that probation was following prescribed guidelines, but decided that he would release Mitchell on a $5,000 unsecured bond. As part of the bond, Mitchell was barred from travel outside of the Southern District of Illinois and the Eastern District of Missouri. He also was barred from obtaining a passport and ordered not to consume alcohol to excess.
Proud also ordered Mitchell to have no contact with victims or witnesses in his case.
Mitchell's trial is scheduled to begin on Nov. 12 before U.S. District Judge David Herndon.
Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at email@example.com or 618-239-2570.