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Hearing Against Convenience Store Robbery Suspect Continued, Drug Charges Upheld

District Judge Harold Borek continued hearing because there was no court-certified Bengali interpreter assigned to the preliminary hearing of Jurell Smalls, 20. A felony and misdemeanor counts of Percoset possession were moved to county court

The preliminary hearing against 2011 convenience store robbery suspect Jurell Smalls, 20, was continued by District Judge Harold Borek Tuesday, due to a court-certified Bengali interpreter not assigned to the hearing.

Borek chastised Lansdale Police and the Montgomery County prosecutor's office for not notifying Lansdale district court 38-1-28 that an official interpreter was needed for the hearing.

Montgomery County ADA Heather Levandoski called victim Abdul Chowdhury and another Bengali man to the stand, but were stopped by Borek.

Borek called recess and spoke with the county court administrator.

"The court administrator instructs that, due to the fact there is an uncertified interpreter, I am prohibited from using him ... particularly in such a serious matter," Borek said. "The victim is the witness."

Borek reduced bail by $1 to $74,999, in order for Smalls to move around more freely at Montgomery County prison.

"It will be easier to speak to his family at prison," Levandoski said.

The original bail amount of $75,000 is a combination of the $50,000 cash bail on the robbery case, and $25,000 cash bail on a separate case involving prescription drug possession and distribution charges.

The drug charges against Smalls, of the 100 block of E. Third Street in Lansdale, were held and continued to a Dec. 5 county arraignment by Borek Tuesday morning at a separate preliminary hearing.

Smalls faces a felony count of possession with intent to distribute, two misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance, misdemeanor possession of marijuana and misdemeanor possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia, according to court records.

Lansdale Police Investigator Chad Bruckner testified that Lansdale Police served a search and seizure warrant on September 22, where two vials of Percocet pills, found hidden away, along with marijuana, a marijuana pipe, a plate to "inhale narcotics" and cut straws, were confiscated from Smalls' third-floor attic bedroom at his mother's house.

Bruckner said police had an ongoing drug investigation at Smalls' house, and had made a controlled purchase of Percocet from Smalls.

He said he observed visitors coming and going from Smalls' home; they would stay for short periods of time, he testified.

"The activity appeared to be drug related," Bruckner said.

Bruckner said Smalls admitted at Lansdale Police Department to being an oxycodone addict, and to selling oxycodone for profit to support his drug habit. 

Bruckner said Smalls gave a written statement to police admitting the sale and use of oxycodone.

Smalls' attorney, Michael Parlow, attempted to argue down the felony count — he said that the Percocet pills seized by Lansdale Police in the warrant were not pills his client was selling.

"Those exact pills, were they the ones he was selling or just that kind he was selling?" said Parlow.

Bruckner read from the written statement given by Smalls to police:

Question: The Percocets found in your bedroom on September 22, 2012, are they yours? Answer: Yeah.

Were you using them personally? Yeah.

Were you also selling them? Yeah.

Parlow asked Bruckner if the plates and straws would lead him to believe that his client was snorting the drugs. Bruckner said yes. 

"Did you believe my client when he told you he had an addiction problem?" asked Parlow.

"Yes, I did," said Bruckner.

Parlow asked if the people coming and going could have been bringing Smalls drugs. Bruckner said they could have been doing that.

"This use was derivative of him selling pills to support this habit," Bruckner said.

Parlow said the prosecution never brought up, for purposes of prima facia, enough evidence to say the pills were not the ones Smalls was selling.

"I am not disputing evidence he was selling," said Parlow. "Because of the residue on the jars, because of the straws, that's what they found — residue of recent use."

Levandoski said the mere fact that Smalls uses doesn't negate the fact that he's also a dealer.

"He is a user and a dealer," Levandoski said. "He admitted using the pills he had seized, and he admitted selling those pills as well."

Levandowski said the warrant was served on Smalls, based on prior conduct and suspicion that he was selling oxycodone.

"They find oxycodone. There's paraphernalia — he admitted to being an addict and admitted to being a dealer," Levandoski said. 

Borek told Parlow his instinct told him that the charges met the threshold needed for prima facia, and therefore, holding them for court.

"I suspect if I grabbed and held on your argument there, we'd be back to this again," Borek said.

In late March 2012, Lansdale Police received information from an informant that Smalls was allegedly selling Percocet from his home, according to an affidavit.

Police conducted surveillance on Smalls' home and saw many suspicious incidents involving Smalls meeting with numerous subjects outside of his home for short periods of time, according to police. The activity appeared to be drug related, according to the affidavit.

In April 2012, police made a purchase of oxycodone from Smalls home, according to the affidavit.

Four months later, police received new information that two juvenile residents of the home were growing marijuana plants in the backyard, according to the affidavit.

On Sept. 22, police executed the warrant. Seized were two marijuana plants in the backyard; two vials of numerous Percocet pills that were hidden in the bedroom and later sent to a lab for confirmation; several hundred dollars in cash; two containers of marijuana that were sent to be tested in lab for confirmation; a glass pipe, two glass plates with white residue that was not tested, and cut straws, according to the affidavit.

At Lansdale Police, Smalls told police he was addicted to oxycodone and allegedly admitted selling them from his home to support his habit, according to the affidavit.

The robbery of Famous Grocery on Sept. 5, 2011 was allegedly committed by Smalls and an accomplice named Mark Williams, of Lansdale, to support Smalls' drug habit, according to an affidavit.

Smalls admitted to police in allegedly committing the robbery of $400 cash from the register of the grocery store at 7:13 p.m., in order to buy oxycodone, according to the affidavit.

Police said the gun was actually a black BB replica handgun that Smalls allegedly took from his house. Smalls allegedly took the gun to use in the robbery after he and Williams walked past the rear entrance of Famous Grocery and saw one clerk working at the time, according to the affidavit.

Smalls allegedly fired a shot into the floor of the store after Chowdhury refused to open the register, according to the affidavit.

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