Drug bust in jeopardyAfter one of the area’s largest drug busts to date warranted 17 arrests in July, a chance exists for charges to be dropped after a confidential informant used in most of the arrests cannot be located.
After one of the area’s largest drug busts to date warranted 17 arrests in July, a chance exists for charges to be dropped after a confidential informant used in most of the arrests cannot be located.
After undercover agents infiltrated Stark County drug trafficking operations in January, involving mainly methamphetamine and prescription drugs, officials identified 23 suspects and by July 30, they arrested 17 people, according to a press release from the Stark County State’s Attorney’s office.
“The presence or absence of the confidential informant would have to be looked at on an individual basis to see whether or not there’s still sufficient evidence to prove a charge beyond a reasonable doubt,” Stark County State’s Attorney Tom Henning said, adding the informant’s absence is not due to state action nor should the state be penalized because the informant is missing.
“The question is whether his absence leaves a hole in the evidence that leaves it beyond proving,” Henning said Tuesday.
One of those arrested was 48-year-old Douglas Johnson of Dickinson, who is charged with a Class A felony for allegedly delivering a controlled substance, morphine pills.
Johnson waived his right to a preliminary hearing and pleaded not guilty in September.
“I want to go to trial,” Johnson said in September.
Johnson had a pretrial conference Tuesday afternoon at the Stark County Courthouse and no plea was entered.
He is now scheduled for a 12-person jury trial Jan. 12.
Attorney Kevin McCabe, who was representing Johnson Tuesday on behalf of absent attorney Jay Greenwood, said he suspects Greenwood will file motions, but what sort is unclear.
The confidential informant is wanted for depositions, including for Johnson’s case, but authorities have been unable to locate him.
“The absence of a CI is unusual,” Henning said, adding he could not disclose the last time authorities had contact with the informant.
If the confidential informant is not located and depositions are not taken, Henning said a chance exists that charges could be dropped because a link in the case is missing.
“For each case in which a confidential informant is involved to the extent that the absence of that witness makes it impossible for the state to go forward and show the links for the contraband and that the testimony is viewed in electronic recordings or videotape or whatever satisfies hearsay,” Henning said.
Johnson was unavailable for comment after the conference.