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Hempfield man seeks end to probation on drug charges

| Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

Fresh off a weeklong cruise to the Bahamas, a former Fayette County man who settled with the state for $12.5 million in the police shooting death of his son wants a judge to grant him early release from probation on drug charges.

Michael R. Hickenbottom, 40, of 465 Lakewood Road, Hempfield, is on probation until Sept. 14 on drug charges. He was placed on probation on June 14 after serving 44 days in the Fayette jail for attempting to board a flight to Jamaica on May 1 without permission.

Hickenbottom is the father of 12-year-old Michael Ellerbe, who was fatally shot by state police Christmas Eve 2002 as he fled from a stolen sport utility vehicle. State police were cleared of wrongdoing, but the state settled with Hickenbottom for $12.5 million in 2008 after a federal jury awarded him $24 million in a civil-rights lawsuit.

Hickenbottom had to give up his passport when two constables took him into custody at Pittsburgh International Airport on May 1 as he tried to board a plane to Jamaica without a judge's permission. Homeland Security officials flagged him because he was wanted at the time on a bench warrant for failure to appear for a hearing on a probation violation in a drug case for testing positive for marijuana use.

He appeared before Judge Steve Leskinen on June 13 and was sentenced to up to three months in jail for the probation violation. In addition, Leskinen imposed probation through Sept. 14.

Court records show Hickenbottom was given credit for time served and released on probation June 14.

Last month, Leskinen granted Hickenbottom permission to leave the country for a $4,159 cruise Sept. 22-29 to Nassau, Bahamas.

In the motion seeking permission to go on the cruise, Hickenbottom's attorney, James T. Davis of Uniontown, pointed out his client was unaware he needed the court's permission for international travel when he scheduled the vacation.

Leskinen on Aug. 2 granted Hickenbottom permission to go on the cruise.

Through Davis, Hickenbottom is now seeking an early release from parole. In a motion filed Monday, Davis notes that although Hickenbottom violated terms of his earlier probation, he has since “complied with all aspects of his parole/probation,” to include payment of at least $15,000 in court costs and fees.

Davis intends to present the motion Oct. 4, according to court records.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com

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