Students ordered held in case of suspected drug lab at Georgetown

By Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 26, 2010; 12:14 AM

Charles Smith and John Perrone sat quietly together in U.S. District Court on Monday, each 18, pale and slender in powder-blue pants and smocks that looked like hospital scrubs. Authorities, worried about chemical contamination, had confiscated their clothing after arresting them Saturday on suspicion of manufacturing an esoteric LSD-like drug in a freshman dorm room at Georgetown University.

Both men, academic high-achievers from a tony Boston suburb, were ordered to remain behind bars for two more days. A third student, Smith's roommate, who was also arrested in the case, was released after authorities chose not to prosecute him.

In a court affidavit made public Monday, investigators said the alleged drug lab, involving several "highly flammable and explosive" chemicals, was the work of Smith, a freshman in the School of Foreign Service, and his high school classmate Perrone, a liberal arts freshman at the University of Richmond.

The two friends, each with tangled brown hair and not the faintest shadow of a facial whisker, live a mile apart in Andover, Mass., and graduated from Andover High School on the honor roll last spring. They spent Saturday and Sunday in the D.C. police department's central lockup.

Their attorneys said the two should be released on bail. But U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson sided with prosecutors, who wanted them held in the D.C. jail until a detention hearing set for Wednesday. The two could be ordered back to jail after that hearing, which will involve police testimony about the alleged drug lab.

Neither student entered a plea Monday, and their attorneys declined to comment.

Investigators said Smith and Perrone used chemicals and other substances to make the hallucinogenic drug dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, in Smith's top-floor room in the nine-story Harbin Hall. Smith had been living in Room 926 of the freshman dorm since arriving at Georgetown on the last weekend of August.

On its Web site, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says that "human experience with DMT probably goes back several hundred years, since DMT usage is associated with a number of shamanic practices and rituals." The substance occurs naturally in some plants. In 1931, a British chemist figured out how to produce it synthetically.

Officials described it as LSD for people in a hurry.

The final product is a crystal substance that can be ground into powder, and it is often snorted or mixed with marijuana and smoked. "The intense effects and short duration of action are attractive to individuals who want a psychedelic experience" but not the hours-long, mind-altering experience provided by LSD, according to the DEA. "Psychological effects include intense visual hallucinations, depersonalization, auditory distortions and an altered sense of time and body image."

A law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing, said the lab had not been discovered because of an odor in the dorm, as was initially reported over the weekend.

The official said the case began to unfold early Saturday, when a campus police officer saw a student standing outside Harbin Hall smoking what the officer thought was marijuana. After being confronted, the student said the substance was "K2," or K2 summit, a product known as "synthetic marijuana" that is sold in head shops.

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