SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 28, 2013

Man arraigned on pill charges

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — The owner of a downtown Thai restaurant who was charged with trafficking in oxycodone last fall remains free on $50,000 cash bail — after turning down a lower bail amount because it would require him to wear a GPS monitoring bracelet.

Jesus Franco, 42, of 34 Perkins St., Salem, who owned the Bangkok Paradise restaurant on Washington Street, made an appearance in Salem Superior Court yesterday morning to answer to a pair of indictments charging him with trafficking. The indictments were handed up in January by an Essex County grand jury.

Franco, who pleaded not guilty yesterday, allegedly sold 350 pills to a person who turned out to be a cooperating witness, police said after his arrest. The deals took place at his restaurant.

Franco has been out on $50,000 bail since shortly after his arrest. Yesterday, his attorney, Mark Barry, asked Judge John Lu to reduce it to $25,000, citing the financial hardship on his family. Franco borrowed the bail money, his lawyer said, and is also struggling to reopen his restaurant.

That restaurant was shuttered after the city’s Licensing Board suspended its liquor license for six months, as a result of the arrest and other incidents.

Barry argued that the case garnered headlines because Franco was one of six local men arrested at roughly the same time, though the cases are not connected.

“There’s not much to this case,” Barry argued.

Prosecutor A.J. Camelio urged the judge to leave the bail at $50,000, noting that the transactions took place just a few hundred yards from the courthouse.

The restaurant, until its recent closing, was a popular lunch spot for court staff and even judges.

Camelio also noted that the defendant is facing at least 81/2 years in minimum mandatory terms on the two counts.

Lu offered to reduce Franco’s bail to $25,000 but added the condition of a GPS bracelet, which costs $130 a month for defendants.

Franco initially agreed. But about a half-hour later, he and Barry returned to the courtroom. Barry said the cost would be a burden to his family and said his client was not able to report to a probation officer once a week, one of the typical requirements of wearing a bracelet.

While Lu said he could skip the reporting requirement, Franco was still unwilling to go along with the deal and then asked if the bail could be restored to the $50,000 that a District Court judge had set last fall following his original arraignment.

The judge agreed.

Franco is due back in court April 23 for a pretrial conference.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.