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Pre-trial detainee freed due to COVID-19 charged with trying to smuggle drugs into jail

A pre-trial detainee released from jail due to concerns over community spread of COVID-19 behind bars is facing new drug charges after allegedly he tried to smuggle drugs into the Middleton jail last week, Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger’s office said in a statement Wednesday.

Eric Jalbert, 31, was awaiting trial on a charge of trafficking more than 10 grams of fentanyl when he was ordered released by an Essex Superior Court judge from the Middleton jail April 14, according to the statement. Jalbert has pleaded not guilty to the drug trafficking charges.

The judge reduced Jalbert’s $50,000 cash bail to house arrest due to concerns in the criminal justice system that the coronavirus will spread inside jails and prisons where social distancing is not routinely possible.


But one week later, the judge reversed her decision after learning that Jalbert could not stay at his mother’s apartment as previously ordered because she lived in an elderly disabled complex that does not allow guests to stay there more than two weeks, officials said.

Jalbert, who was ordered to wear a GPS tracking device upon release, had also violated his house arrest by leaving his mother’s apartment numerous times, according to the statement.

After learning the judge had revoked his bail, Jalbert turned himself in to the Essex County Sheriff’s Department later that day.

While undergoing a routine check as he was re-entering the jail, correction officers allegedly found drugs on him, Coppinger’s office said.

Searchers allegedly found 15 strips of suboxone, a small bag of marijuana, and a small bag of tobacco in Jalbert’s procession while they were booking him, officials said.

Jalbert was charged with two counts of introduction of contraband to a correctional facility, one count of possession of a Class B substance (suboxone), and one count of possession with intent to distribute a Class B substance (suboxone).


He is expected to be arraigned via teleconference this week.

Caroline Enos can be reached at caroline.enos@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @CarolineEnos.