A federal judge Monday in U.S. Middle District Court, 240 W. Third St., ordered a 26-year-old Tioga County woman allegedly involved in a conspiracy to produce crystal meth to home confinement at her parents' house.
Nichole L. Perkins, 26, of Elkland faces a possible sentence of 10 years to life for her alleged involvement in the drug manufacturing conspiracy, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Simmers, who is prosecuting the case.
"It's a very short leash," said federal Magistrate Judge William I. Arbuckle. "It's the constitutional right to bail in the very limited sense."
Simmers contends Perkins allowed her then 3-year-old daughter to be in a trailer where the meth was cooked by the toddler's father, Jesse S. Washburn, 24, at the time.
On the night of Sept. 21, 2011, state police were about to raid the trailer when an explosion took place at about midnight, burning Washburn.
Perkins and her daughter also were in the trailer at the time, according to state police testimony Monday.
When asked, Simmers said the case reaches the federal level because of the amount of drug authorities seized - 8 pounds - and because Perkins allegedly traveled across state lines into New York to buy Sudafed, an ingredient used in the manufacture of the drug.
State police said they saw at least two adults and a child leave the trailer after the blast. A state police corporal said he saw a woman re-enter the camper and was told by another trooper that a woman carried the child out after the blast.
"Somebody saw a woman go back in and out carrying a child?" D. Toni Byrd, a federal public defender, asked the corporal.
A woman came out of the trailer, unscrewed a light bulb and supposedly re-entered the camper, according to police, who assured Arbuckle the blast wasn't caused by their deployment of a device.
Allen Cook, Washburn's step-father, testified to hearing the blast. Cook said he was sleeping about 75 feet from the trailer. He described what sounded as a shotgun blast.
When he ran over to see what was happening, Cook said another man handed Perkin's daughter over to him. Soon after, he said, police swarmed in and an officer threatened him. "He said, 'stand still' or he'd Taser me," Cook said, adding that he was holding onto the girl. Cook was asked by Simmers, "Did somebody say a furnace exploded?" Cook later testified he hadn't heard prior explosions or noticed odors around the trailer.
Mitchell Perkins and Rita Perkins, Nichole's parents, were asked by Simmers if it were true that their daughter left the trailer with their granddaughter in it and how would they feel about that.
"Not very good," Mitchell Perkins said.
Her parents were not aware of the meth lab or chemicals or drugs inside the trailer. Perkins' daughter knows her mother and father are locked up.
Perkins, through Byrd, told the judge she has been attending drug counseling and staying clean. Should Perkins be convicted at trial of conspiracy to manufacture, possess and distribute 500 grams of detectable meth and a second count of manufacturing, possessing and distributing the drug, she faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and maximum of life in prison, Simmers said.
Others allegedly involved in the conspiracy, including Washburn and his brother, Nathan, have hearings next week. Two other men from New York who have been indicted, Joshua Chrisler and Jeff Chrisler, also have hearings scheduled before Arbuckle.