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Man on probation intended to swap urine, officer says

| Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 9:31 p.m.

A Jeannette man surrendered urine in a pill bottle when authorities searched all offenders entering a day reporting center in Greensburg on Dec. 5, a Westmoreland County probation officer testified Thursday.

The urine handed over by 22-year-old Rashaad Ricardo Shepard of 317 1/2 Division St. later tested positive for suboxone, a drug used to treat opiate dependence, officer Luci Taylor said.

"He did hand me a pill bottle, which I noticed had liquid in it," Taylor said. "He said it was urine."

Greensburg District Judge James Albert held Shepard for trial on charges of use or attempt to provide drug-free urine, attempt to obstruct administration of law and obstruction of administration of law.

County detectives charged Shepard and other clients of the probation center on South Maple Avenue with bringing in urine to submit for drug tests.

Shepard's attorney, Eric Dee, sought to have the charges dismissed, saying the law required the urine to be drug-free.

Assistant District Attorney Chris Flanigan argued that it was Shepard's intent that mattered. "He believed it was drug-free. That was the only reason for him to bring it to the day reporting center," she said.

Albert said he had enough evidence to hold the case for court, but there might be issues at trial.

"Will it hold up beyond a reasonable doubt• I don't know. That's another story," he said.

Authorities investigated the center after a Derry Township woman who was a client overdosed on heroin in November.

Michael Chester Rush, 31, of 113 Ridge Ave., Unity, another client, obtained that heroin in Jeannette after he and the woman left the center, detectives allege.

Rush is awaiting trial for delivery and possession of heroin. The woman is recovering, authorities said.

The center offers probation services, counseling, treatment and job training.

In December, judges placed a moratorium on sentencing defendants to the center after the investigations landed dozens of program participants in jail for drug violations.

The judges lifted the ban last month for new clients after probation officials offered recommendations to improve oversight and security. The number of clients has been limited to 100.

Andrew James Greene, 29, of 50 Brattleboro Drive, Greensburg, faces a preliminary hearing related to the investigation and Glenn Matthew Speece, 30, of Hempfield, and Brian Erick Ross, 29, of North Huntingdon, are awaiting trial.

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