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Deal secures Georgetown drug-lab suspects' release from jail

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By Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 27, 2010; 11:15 PM

Two young men accused of running a makeshift chemical drug lab in a Georgetown University dorm room and making a potent hallucinogen intended for sale were let out of jail Wednesday and told to return to their Boston area homes to await court hearings.

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Charles Smith, a Georgetown freshman, and his high school classmate John Perrone, a freshman at the University of Richmond, had been behind bars since early Saturday, when the discovery of the suspected lab prompted an evacuation of Georgetown's Harbin Hall, the nine-story freshman dorm where Smith lived.

When the two students, both 18, appeared for the first time in U.S. District Court on Monday, a judge scheduled a detention hearing for Wednesday that was to have included testimony from police. That hearing probably would have resulted in new details becoming public about the alleged lab.

But the hearing was canceled after prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed on the terms under which Smith and Perrone could leave the D.C. jail and return to the affluent Boston suburb of Andover, Mass., each in the legal custody of his father.

"These young men don't need to be detained," Smith's attorney, David Schertler, said outside the courthouse, asserting that neither is a flight risk or danger to the public. Perrone's attorney, G. Allen Dale, described them as "scared to death" and said, "They're going to be a lot better tonight when they get a good meal with their folks."

The two will be fitted with electronic monitoring devices and must stay home at night, authorities said. Their next court hearing is set for Jan. 24. Each is charged with a federal felony with a sentencing range of probation to 20 years in prison.

Officials said in a court affidavit that Smith and Perrone were using "highly flammable and explosive" chemicals and other materials to manufacture the powerful hallucinogen dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, in Smith's ninth-floor room.

A law enforcement official said police found traces of suspected DMT in Perrone's car, parked outside Smith's dorm. Authorities said police searched Perrone's dorm room in Richmond but found nothing illegal or dangerous.

Experts say DMT usage is not widespread because the drug provides a supercharged, often terrifying psychedelic experience. Unlike the hours-long mind-altering effects of the more common hallucinogen LSD, the effects of DMT last about 30 minutes. It is sometimes called "the businessman's LSD," preferred by users with little time to spare.

Smith, enrolled in Georgetown's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, and Perrone, a liberal arts student, graduated on the honor roll from Andover High School in the spring and live a mile apart in the town, 25 miles north of Boston, not far from the New Hampshire border. Perrone's family home is valued at $826,000, Smith's at $1.2 million.

The two will be required to stay home from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. and must enroll in school or seek a full-time job during the day, according to the U.S. attorney's office. They will be supervised by federal pretrial services officials and must submit to periodic drug and alcohol testing. They are barred from having contact with each other.

They also are prohibited from traveling outside Massachusetts except to work or attend school in New Hampshire or make court appearances in Washington.


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