A Texas man charged in a synthetic drug case continued to sell controlled substances after he heard about two overdose deaths in North Dakota from the hallucinogens, a federal prosecutor said Thursday.
The claim was made in a detention hearing for Charles Carlton, who's accused of selling chemicals over the Internet that eventually left two teenagers dead and others hospitalized. Carlton has pleaded not guilty to three counts, including conspiracy to distribute controlled substances resulting in serious bodily injury and death.
U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson ordered that Carlton be released, after defense attorney Alex Reichert argued the defendant did not have a passport, has not attempted to flee even though he has known about the investigation for many months, and has a wife and two young children at home.
"He is not going to abandon them because of this," Reichert said.
Carlton's bond amount wasn't immediately clear.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Myers, while arguing for Carlton to remain in jail before his March trial, said he found it "troubling" that the defendant allegedly kept dealing when he knew the drugs made people sick.
"That shows he is a danger to the community," Myers said.
Carlton, 28, of Katy, Texas, shook his head from side to side and wrote a note to Reichert when a judge repeated assertions by investigators that Carlton was aware that Andrew Spofford, of Grand Forks, had cooked up the deadly chemicals. Spofford has pleaded guilty.
Reichert said Carlton's case appears to be "at least three steps removed" from the overdose deaths, noting that the drugs manufactured by Spofford were stolen before they were delivered.
"It's not that he was directly involved in injury or death," Reichert said of his client.
Prosecutors believe Carlton imported hallucinogenic chemicals from China, the U.K., Austria, Poland, Greece, Spain, and Canada through his company, Motion Resources, LLC. Those substances allegedly were distributed throughout the U.S. in an attempt to evade law enforcement.
Carlton is being asked to turn over $385,000 in alleged drug profits.
Christian Bjerk, 18, of Grand Forks, and Elijah Stai, 17, of Park Rapids, Minn., died within a week of each other in June, allegedly after ingesting the hallucinogens. The investigation into their deaths led authorities to arrest about a dozen people, many of whom have pleaded guilty.
Carlton is one of four people charged in the latest round of indictments for conspiracy resulting in injury or death, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Byron Landry, 27, of Kiln, Miss., and John Polinski, 25, of Houston, have pleaded not guilty. Ryan Lane, 27, of East Grand Forks, Minn., has yet to appear in court.
Erickson ordered that Carlton refrain from using alcohol or drugs, avoid contact with co-defendants or witnesses in the case, and stay within his county in Texas unless he gets permission from his probation officer.
Page 2 of 2 - Myers expects Carlton's trial to last three weeks.