Judge eases tether conditions for defendant in drug-bust case

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published March 24, 2015

 Najah Zetouna, right, stands beside his defense attorney, Neil Rockind, at the 41-A District Court in Shelby Township March 23. Zetouna is charged with delivery/manufacture of marijuana and maintaining a drug house.

Najah Zetouna, right, stands beside his defense attorney, Neil Rockind, at the 41-A District Court in Shelby Township March 23. Zetouna is charged with delivery/manufacture of marijuana and maintaining a drug house.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

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On March 23, 41-A District Court Judge Douglas Shepherd agreed to ease the tether conditions for a Shelby man charged with delivery/manufacture of marijuana and maintaining a drug house.

In February, police arrested Najah Zetouna, 51, following a monthlong investigation and drug seizure worth an estimated $125,000. Police said the seizure involved approximately 32 pounds of high-grade marijuana packaged for sale and synthetic marijuana.

Zetouna’s defense attorney, Neil Rockind, said he and his client appeared in court, despite the case detective’s unavailability for what was supposed to be a preliminary exam, to request relaxed bond conditions.

“I don’t have objections to the adjournment,” Rockind said. “I was advised by (Assistant Prosecutor) Mr. (William) Dailey that we needed to appear.”

Rockind said he originally moved to have Zetouna’s tether removed entirely, but Dailey objected. Rockind added that he planned to raise the issue of tether removal at another point in time.

Rockind said he and Dailey did agree, with the court’s permission, that Zetouna could switch from a tether keeping him under house arrest with the sole exception of traveling to and from work from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday to a 24-hour GPS-tracking tether to allow him to go out of his house for any purpose from 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

“Mr. Zetouna would be allowed to be out of his home from 8 in the morning until 8 p.m. for any purpose, and that would include taking his kids out and spending time with his wife or coming to my office, but he’s got to be in by 8,” Rockind said.

Shepherd called in Jeffrey Hall, an assistant prosecutor in the district court division, to verify Dailey’s position because, Shepherd said, “It’s just not written up that way (in the case file).” Hall gave confirmation.

Shepherd granted Rockind’s motion to modify Zetouna’s bond conditions.

After court, Rockind said that he and his client asked for the bond modification because they felt the prior stipulations were unfair to Zetouna’s family.

“He’s doing as well as can be expected,” Rockind said. “One of the challenges of any case is dealing with the aftermath and the impact on your family. … His children have been uninvited from a couple of events because parents see his picture in the paper or his name in the paper.”

Rockind said he would wait for the opportunity to try the evidence in court and cross-examine the witnesses.

“We’re going to let our courtroom conduct and strategy do the talking for us,” he said. “I’m going to be me, which is usually pretty effective.”

Detective Lt. Jason Schmittler said police responded to a tip and, after four to five weeks of undercover surveillance, they recovered the majority of the drugs in an Oakland County storage facility. He said police executed four search warrants in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.

Police arrested Zetouna after making a traffic stop, Shelby Township Police Chief Robert Shelide said.

Schmittler said the seized marijuana was not grown in Shelby Township, but that it came from out of state.

Zetouna was released from jail after posting his $50,000 cash or surety bond.

Zetouna is scheduled to appear at the 41-A District Court at 8:30 a.m. April 21 for his preliminary examination.

Dailey, chief of the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office's drug unit, could not be reached for comment by press time.

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