A Little Rock man scheduled to go to trial this month on federal drug and firearms charges was arraigned Thursday on a superseding federal indictment after a court ruling tossing evidence in the case prompted the U.S. attorney's office to dismiss two of the federal gun charges he was facing.
Justin Thabit, 42, of Little Rock, was arraigned on charges of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime before U.S. Magistrate Judge Edie Ervin. Thabit was originally indicted Dec. 4, 2019, on one count each of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, possession of a firearm by a felon, and possession of an unregistered firearm.
Thabit was on parole for the October 2001 beating death of James Medley, 21, during a gang initiation in the parking lot of the Chateau Apartments on Asher Avenue in Little Rock.
Sentenced to 26 years in prison by a Pulaski County circuit court judge, Thabit was first paroled in 2016, then returned to prison in 2018 on a parole violation and released again in March 2019.
He was arrested June 18, 2019, after law enforcement officers from Pulaski County, Little Rock and the U.S. Marshals Service -- under authority of a search waiver -- searched a home belonging to Thabit's girlfriend where they reported seizing drugs and guns, including a shotgun with a barrel shorter than 18 inches and no serial number.
Authorities said they had begun searching for Thabit after he missed two visits with his parole officer in 2019 and was considered to be an absconder.
According to court records, parole officers visited Thabit's mother's home -- the address he had listed on the search waiver -- on March 14, 2019, and were told that although he had a room there, he had not spent the night for several weeks. The absconder warrant was issued the following day.
Three months later Thabit was found at his girlfriend's home after a tip from a confidential informant, according to court documents. During the search, Thabit reportedly told officers they would find drugs and guns inside the home.
In June 2021, Thabit went to court in a bid to get the evidence taken from the search of his girlfriend's home suppressed, arguing that her home was not subject to the search waiver Thabit signed when he was paroled because it was not his home. During that hearing, a Pulaski County sheriff's investigator testified that he could not recall how the tip to search the girlfriend's home had come to him and that no record remained of the tip.
Following a second hearing in December 2021, Chief U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall ordered the evidence from the search to be suppressed but denied Thabit's motion to exclude his admission to police the day of the arrest. Last month, f0llowing an appeal by the U.S. attorney, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Marshall's ruling.
Thabit's trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 27 at 1 p.m. and is expected to conclude the following day. Thabit's defense counsel is Michael Kaiser of Little Rock. The case is being prosecuted by assistant U.S. attorneys Cameron McCree and Kristin Bryant.