Activist's bond is yanked over pot

Annoyed judge orders her to jail

court gavel
court gavel

An activist charged with attempting to burn police vehicles with Molotov cocktails and vandalizing other police property was taken into custody and will remain in jail until her case has been adjudicated, a federal judge ordered Friday.

The judge revoked Brittany Dawn Jeffrey's bond after she tested positive for marijuana on a number of occasions. Jeffrey is one of five people charged over anti-police vandalism that took place last summer as racial-injustice protests were taking place.

Jeffrey, who has an Arkansas medical-marijuana patient card, said she uses the drug to treat her post-traumatic stress disorder, but that explanation didn't satisfy U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe Volpe, who previously warned her any use of marijuana, including medical marijuana, could land her in jail.

"There is really no condition or combination of conditions that I can really impose that she is going to follow," Volpe said. "She is just not likely to abide by any condition that I impose."

Jeffrey testified Friday in a Little Rock courtroom about her use of marijuana, saying other prescribed medications were ineffective at treating her mental-health ailments

Jeffrey's attorney, John Wesley Hall, said marijuana was a "minor" drug and the court should help her find mental-health treatment where she won't need to use marijuana to treat her PTSD.

"This is medical marijuana, the spectrum of all the drugs that it could be, this is on the low end," Hall said.

When asked by Hall if medical marijuana helps treat her problems, Jeffrey told the court "Yes sir, it helps my stomach and it helps with the night terrors."

Volpe found Jeffrey's argument "unpersuasive," writing in his order of detention "Ms. Jeffrey reported no history of mental health issues and no need for mental health treatment," when she went through her original interview with pretrial services."

During the hearing, Jeffrey's probation officer testified that the government offered to arrange a mental-health specialist if her attorney submitted a motion to the court.

Jeffrey said she rejected the help because she wasn't comfortable with a government-appointed therapist. She also added that Medicaid made it difficult for her to find a therapist who would take her insurance.

After Jeffrey was taken into custody Friday, Hall filed an appeal, saying she should be released without drug-monitoring stipulations or be able to seek "mental health treatment to alleviate her PTSD in lieu of incarceration."

When Volpe announced that he would revoke Jeffrey's bond, he reminded her that when she was originally released he told her that all use of illegal drugs was prohibited.

In court in December, Jeffrey responded by asking Volpe "Do you mean marijuana, too?" The exchange sparked a ripple of laughter.

Jeffrey's case is scheduled to go to trial in September after she and the other four co-defendants were indicted on charges of vandalism and attempted vandalism of police property.

On Aug. 26, two unexploded Molotov cocktails were found at the Little Rock 12th Street police substation. Some police vehicles at the station also had their tires punctured.

Two days later, a police vehicle at Arkansas State Police headquarters was burned with a suspected Molotov cocktail. Jeffery hasn't been implicated in that incident.

Jeffrey, along with Mujera Benjamin Lungaho, Emily Nowlin, Aline Espinosa-Villegas and Renea Goddard, have been indicted on charges related to the vandalism.

This isn't the first time Volpe has rebuked one of the defendants in this case for violating the terms of pretrial release.

In June, Espinosa-Villegas appeared in front of Volpe for a hearing after violating the terms of release by testing positive for marijuana, violating her curfew and removing her electronic monitoring equipment.

Volpe chose not to revoke Espinosa-Villegas' bond, telling her she had "one more chance."