Judge dismisses more drug chargesJudge William Herauf dismissed a drug charge against a Dickinson woman during her hearing at the Stark County Courthouse Tuesday afternoon. Stacey Thornton is the third defendant whose charges were recently dropped because a key witness in their cases is missing.
Judge William Herauf dismissed a drug charge against a Dickinson woman during her hearing at the Stark County Courthouse Tuesday afternoon.
Stacey Thornton is the third defendant whose charges were recently dropped because a key witness in their cases is missing.
Thornton was accused of delivering five morphine pills, which is a Class A felony.
The informant, who authorities say has been missing since September, was involved in a large drug bust in Stark County that led to 17 arrests in July.
Charges against Phillip Bennett, who faced two counts of delivering methamphetamine, were dismissed Friday, according to court records. The missing informant was involved in his case as well.
A warrant was issued for the informant’s arrest in January. Stark County State’s Attorney Tom Henning said the informant has been out of the state since the summer.
His absence has put several cases in jeopardy.
“The cases involving the (confidential informant) at this juncture, I have yet to have one hold water without him,” Henning said after Thornton’s hearing. “As they come up, I’m reviewing them and if we have enough (evidence) without him, we’re going. If we don’t have enough (evidence), we’re not.”
Some of the 17 arrests did not involve the confidential informant and Henning said those will be prosecuted.
However, Thornton was never accused of delivering drugs directly to the informant. She was accused of selling drugs to Douglas Johnson, who allegedly delivered them to the informant.
“What happens is you can monitor that person — you can follow them and do all of that, but you don’t have a wire on them,” Henning said. “We don’t have a clear identification of what took place. There was observation that an exchange took place between Stacey and the other individual, but nobody can say they saw exactly what happened.”
He said the evidence against Thornton was circumstantial to begin with. All they have on her is that Johnson took the informant’s money, met with Thornton and returned with drugs, Henning said.
Charges against Johnson were dismissed in January.
Their charges have been dismissed without prejudice.
“Being dismissed without prejudice means that there has been no determination about the case on its merits,” Henning said.
Therefore, Henning could charge them all over again within the statute of limitations.
“If we were to get our witness back so he would be available and if I’m still within the three years, I could recharge,” he said.
The missing informant is not an officer, but a paid confidential informant, Henning said.
“We’ve done this in this fashion before, and never had this much trouble,” Henning said.
Hearings for more accused in the bust are scheduled for upcoming weeks.