BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — SALEM — A Salem public works employee and a Lynn man just 21/2 weeks from completing his probation in a federal gun and drug case are facing charges after Salem detectives watched the worker purchase 100 oxycodone pills while on the job Monday afternoon, police said.
Police say they were watching as James Soper, 51, of 146 Bridge St., Salem, got out of a city-owned dump truck parked near the Kernwood golf course and into a Toyota Sequoia driven by Jonathan Legault, 36, of Lynn.
Soper, whom police recognized, got out about 10 minutes later and climbed back into the city truck, police said. Salem police detectives who had been watching the pair pulled both vehicles over moments later as they began driving away.
Salem police Lt. Conrad Prosniewski told a Salem District Court judge that Soper quickly admitted that he’d purchased 100 oxycodone (commonly known as Percocet) pills from Legault. Police found those pills, as well as other pills, and $3,000 cash on Soper. He was not arrested, but police are seeking a summons for him to appear in court on drug possession charges.
“Mr. Soper was immediately placed on administrative leave once we were informed of the allegation of illegality while on duty,” said Lisa Cammarata, Salem’s human resources director. “A just cause hearing, required under civil service law, is being scheduled to determine if there is just cause for the termination of his employment with the city.”
Legault, who was arrested, was found to be carrying 450 oxycodone pills and $610 in cash after police searched him, Prosniewski told Judge Michael Lauranzano.
Legault was supposed to complete a three-year probation term in a federal drug and gun case that started with a search of his Lynn home that turned up an unlicensed handgun and a large amount of cocaine in 2003. He served 71/2 years in that case. According to federal court records, he tried unsuccessfully last year to be let off probation a year early.
Now, probation officials in the federal court are seeking a warrant to detain Legault for violating his probation.
Legault, who was charged with trafficking in oxycodone, possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute and a drug violation in a school zone, was ordered held yesterday on $50,000 bail, despite a plea from his attorney, Steven Judge, who argued that under recently reduced minimum-mandatory-sentencing laws, Legault has an incentive to return to court without posting such a high bail.
Prosniewski said the case came to the attention of Salem police through state police detectives, and the two agencies worked together. Salem police detectives Eric Connolly, Lt. Steve Bona and Capt. Thomas Griffin and state police Trooper Steven Racki were involved in Monday afternoon’s arrest.
Legault is due back in court for a probable cause hearing on Feb. 27.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.