Smoker's Video co-owner released from ankle monitor

Ronald Brown Jr. accused of manslaughter in death of 16-year-old

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One of the owners of Smoker's Video who's accused of manslaughter in the death of 16-year-old Matthew Purdy will no longer have to wear a GPS ankle monitor, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge Mark Hulsey did not explain the reason for his decision to grant Ronald Brown Jr.'s request to have his ankle monitor removed.

Brown, who faces charges of manslaughter and racketeering, argued that the monitoring cost $300 a month, which put a financial burden on Brown, whose money is tied up in legal fees right now. Brown and his attorney also said the monitor interfered with Brown's work at his Mellow Mushroom restaurant, in Sanford.

Defense attorney Mitch Stone argued that Brown has always complied with the conditions and was not a flight risk or danger to society.

"Innocent until proven guilty. That's the message," Stone told News4Jax after the hearing. 

Prosecutors asked the judge to keep the ankle monitor on because Brown has no ties to Jacksonville other than the case.

Purdy’s mother, Brenda Levy Purdy, was at the courthouse Tuesday with Matthew's aunt, Debra Murray. They told News4Jax that they thought Hulsey's decision was unfair and that they are worried that Brown will try to run because he faces serious charges.

"I'm not very happy," said Brenda Levy Purdy. "He just gave him more freedom to go, to Cocoa Beach, to go to his home, to go to this business." 

Police said Purdy died at Ronnie Van Zant Memorial Park, in Green Cove Springs, after overdosing on synthetic marijuana purchased from a Smoker's Video store in Jacksonville. Originally, he was believed to have had an allergic reaction to the chemical compound "Sunshine" found in synthetic pot. That was not the case.

"It's all over the news. If you Google spice, K2, whatever, people going into comas, they have seizures and unfortunately, like Matthew, they can die. First time taking it, you can die," Murray said.

Brown was one of 13 people wanted for arrest after a three-year investigation called Operation Chain Smokers that led to raids in May.

Local, state and federal authorities seized $62,089.75 in cash, 262 vials of "Sunshine," 3,317 bags of "Freeze" and two vehicles.

Brown wasn't captured the day of the raids but later surrendered to authorities.

"This product was a legal product to sell. So when it was being sold, it wasn't being sold behind some shady, closed door. It was being sold right in the middle of the store," Stone said.

Brown was the only person charged with manslaughter, but the owners and managers were charged with either racketeering or running a criminal enterprise. Many were charged with multiple counts of selling an altered or mislabeled drug.

Purdy's family said they just want to make sure no one else dies after buying synthetic drugs.

"If I wasn't to ask for any kind of punishment, that is just saying let him go. Let him go continue making it and put more people at harm, in harm's way," Brenda Levy Purdy said.

Brown's next pretrial hearing is scheduled for Aug. 16. Brendan Levy Purdy is asking community members to come to the court hearings and show support for her family during this difficult time. 

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