Rice remains jailed awaiting trial
A proclivity for marijuana and pornography landed convicted attempted kidnapper Darrell David Rice back in jail on March 19, and at a probation violation hearing on Thursday, March 26, federal judge B. Waugh Crigler decided he should stay there until trial.
"Are you trying to draw a line between marijuana use and violence?" asked Rice's court appointed public defender Fred Heblich after hearing testimony from probation officer Mike Sheffield, who called Rice's violations a "continual pattern" and recalled that Rice had smoked pot while on probation following his 1993 conviction for intent to distribute LSD.
Argued Heblich, pointing out that no scientific correlation between marijuana and violence exists and referring to a famed 1930s "public service" film that depicted pot smokers as deranged lunatics, "The court has to decide [if] it's Reefer Madness or it isn't."
Rice was released from prison in July 2007 after serving 10 years for an attempted kidnapping in the Shenandoah National Park. His name has also been floated as a suspect in various other violent crimes against women, but his defenders say he has been unfairly maligned. Rice's prison term was followed by three years of supervised probation; until early this year, he was monitored by an ankle bracelet and GPS. In addition, he was prohibited from using drugs or viewing pornography.
According to court statements today, in October 2007, Rice violated the pornography prohibition stated as a condition of his probation, and in November 2008 and March of this year he tested positive for marijuana. In addition, he admitted to smoking marijuana in January and February of this year, and to viewing what his probation officers consider pornography again this month on cable television– Heblich suggested it was either HBO or Cinemax. (No details of the actual offending television program was offered, leaving some in the courtroom to wonder if a popular show like Sex and the City would classify as pornography.) Rice was arrested on Thursday, March 19.
Rice's mother, Lenna Mays, took the stand to testify that her son has been working hard at his job as assistant manager for Environmental Products Systems in Frederick, Maryland– close to the home she shares with her son in Stevensville, a small Maryland town on Kent Island.
Although the uproar on Kent Island was "terrible" immediately after Rice was released and settled there, Mays testified, her son, who was once named "Employee of the Month" at his current job, had been "doing so well, I've been bragging."
What she admits she didn't realize: that he was still sneaking marijuana.
"I was very surprised," she testified, when she heard he'd had not one but numerous violations, and she says she had never seen any sign of drug or pornography use.
Rice, 41, and appearing thinner than at previous court appearances, spoke softly when questioned by the judge.
"I enjoy it," he said of his job, citing friendships with his coworkers. He described befriending a neighbor– a woman with children– who'd initially been concerned about his proximity and criminal past.
"Once she met me," Rice testified, "she felt better."
Although Rice admitted he'd smoked pot outside his substance abuse treatment center immediately after an appointment, he said his probation officer had been supportive of his rehabilitation.
"I believe I disappointed him," he testified.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Huber recommended Rice's continued detention, citing Sheffield's testimony, and the fact that marijuana is an "illegal substance" that Rice had continued to use. Heblich, while acknowledging that Rice likely faces additional jail time– up to 24 months– argued that Rice should be released while he awaits trial so that he can terminate his employment responsibly.
"Nobody's argued he's a flight risk," said Heblich, who cited another reason bond can be denied: that he would be a threat to the community.
"Is he a danger if he continues to watch HBO or smoke marijuana?" Heblich asked.
Judge Crigler declined to weigh in on the marijuana/violence connection, but instead imparted a "clinical analysis": No matter in what way, Rice, he explained, had violated the terms of his probation not once, but at least three times.
"I'm detaining him," he ruled, before praising Rice for a post-prison adjustment that "overall has been good."
Addressing Rice's concerns that he wouldn't be able to give his employer two-weeks notice and therefore might not be able to be rehired once he's re-released, Crigler was sympathetic.
"If I need to make a call to his employer, I will," he said, to explain that Rice's absence from work is "not because he's just not showing up."
Rice, who is being held at the Central Virginia Regional Jail in Orange, will face trial on the probation violation on April 7 at 10:30am.
–Story last updated March 30 at 2:50pm