Lift your right hand, stretch your index finger as far as you can from your thumb and know that is about how close an accused, international "bath salts" drug kingpin from Newport Coast came to winning pre-trial release from custody.
Facing a 16-count federal indictment and a potential mandatory life in prison sentence, Sean Libbert, a 38-year-old convicted felon, has vigorously fought his no-bail status after a news-making June arrest involving the manufacturing of hallucinogenic, synthetic cocaine and marijuana commonly packaged as "Spice."
In mid-August, Libbert convinced U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas F. McCormick to reverse an earlier decision by okaying a $1,050,000 bail.
But Assistant United States Attorney Carol Alexis Chen, who is assigned to her agency's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, fought McCormick's ruling by asserting that Libbert illegally possesses weapons and is "danger/flight" risk trying to use criminal associates and narcotics proceeds to improperly pay the bail.
Chen also pointed out that Libbert has extensive ties in communist China, used a series of aliases in the past and once became a fugitive rather than self-surrender to serve a prior 37-month narcotics conviction.
Raoul J. Severo, Libbert's Pasadena-based defense lawyer labels Chen's worries "hyperbole" and re-characterized his client's RCS Labs less alarmingly as in the "chemical sales business."
McCormick, a former federal prosecutor, agreed to temporarily stay his ruling by allowing Chen a chance to appeal her case to U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney.
This month, Carney considered the arguments and reversed McCormick's bail granting order.
"[Libbert] is charged with very serious drug, firearm and importation crimes," the judge stated in his ruling. "He also has possessed numerous firearms and significant amounts of ammunition, even though he knew he was prohibited from possessing, carrying or discharging any weapon due to this prior felony drug conviction."
Carney noted the potential lethal dangers of "bath salt" usage as well as the defendant's "troubling criminal history" that includes theft, burglary, hit and run, DUI and sales of the party drug Ecstasy, according to records inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana.
Others charged in the alleged drug dealing conspiracy include Dana Point's Kyle Kledzik, Jin Lui (a.k.a. Thomas Lua) and three other Chinese nationals.
Federal agents claim Libbert and his cohorts illegally smuggled more than 300 kilograms of chemicals into the U.S. between March 2010 and July 2012.
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Much of the case has been conducted in secrecy to this point, but records obtained by the Weekly suggest at least one of the defendant's quietly pleaded guilty in August.
Carney scheduled a March 17, 2015, trial in the case.