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State v. Gibson

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Noble

March 31, 2017

STATE OF OHIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
CHRISTOPHER L. GIBSON, JR., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

         Criminal Appeal from Court of Common Pleas of Nobel County, Ohio Case No: 215-2030.

          For Plaintiff-Appellee Kelly A. Riddle Prosecutor

          For Defendant-Appellant Attorney Chandra L. Ontko

          JUDGES: Hon. Gene Donofrio Hon. Cheryl L. Waite Hon. Mary DeGenaro

          OPINION

          DONOFRIO, J.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant, Christopher Gibson, appeals from a Noble County Common Pleas Court judgment convicting him of illegal conveyance of prohibited items onto the grounds of a detention facility following a jury trial.

         {¶2} On February 25, 2015, Deputy Paul Channel transported appellant to the Noble County Jail. Deputy Channel testified that he took appellant to the shower room, collected his street clothes, advised him to shower, and then left the room. Deputy Channel also said he did a head-to-toe search of appellant. However that search would not have revealed whether or not something had been ingested, Deputy Channel admitted.

         {¶3} Jail personnel assigned appellant to the 16-person dorm known as "DO-3". The dorm consists of a large open room with 16 bunks, 2 showers with curtains, and 2 partially walled-off toilet areas. Two other inmates besides appellant also occupied that dorm.

         {¶4} The day after appellant was booked, on February 26, Corrections Officer Zane Love conducted a walk-through of DO-3. Upon entering the dorm, Officer Love said he immediately smelled marijuana. Officer Love asked the inmates who had the marijuana, but none of them admitted to it. So Officer Love requested backup and searched the dorm. Nothing was found.

         {¶5} Upon later being questioned by Detective Captain Robert Pickenpaugh, appellant purportedly admitted that, during the February 26 search, he had hidden the marijuana-filled balloon in his hand, swallowed it, and would later pass it.

         {¶6} Two days later, on February 28, Officer Love became aware that there might be drugs in the jail. So, along with backup, he again searched DO-3. This time, next to appellant's bed, Officer Love discovered a jail-issued cup with a lid on it. According to the officer, appellant said it was his spit cup. When Officer Love opened the lid, he could see the cup was filled with toilet paper. Unraveling the toilet paper, the officer found two balloons that smelled strongly of marijuana.

         {¶7} Officer Love asked appellant where the drugs had come from. According to the officer, appellant replied, "They're mine." The officer followed up, asking "Where did the drugs come from? Were they inside you when you came into the jail?" To which appellant purportedly answered, "Yes, they're mine for my own personal use."

         {¶8} Later that same day, during the course of the investigation, appellant and another inmate reported that they had found the marijuana in an electrical socket in the dorm. Officer Love described this as a "concerted" explanation, recounting that some time had passed after the marijuana was discovered and before appellant was locked down. Officer Love reviewed the surveillance video that showed the electrical outlet in question, and he testified that he saw no one access that socket. The video was not made part of the record.

         {¶9} During the February 28 investigation, officers also found a pen with suspected drug residue on it. The pen was found on an inmate named Littleton, who shared a "bunk or cell" with appellant. The record did not disclose what exactly the suspected drug residue was.

         {¶10} Next, Corrections Officer Ron Saling arrived to photograph the evidence, i.e., the balloons. And another officer later transported the evidence to the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation ("BCI"), where test results showed that the substance in the balloons was indeed marijuana.

         {¶11} Two days later, on March 2, Detective Pickenpaugh interviewed appellant, after having him sign a waiver-of-rights form. According to Detective Pickenpaugh, appellant initially denied everything. Then the detective told appellant that he could send the balloons away for DNA testing, and it would probably come back as a match. That apparently prompted appellant to give the detective a more detailed explanation - i.e., (1) that he was attempting to purchase the marijuana from another inmate, Joe Hess, by having his wife put money on Hess' books; and (2) that he had had the balloon in his hand when Officer Love walked into the dorm on February 26, at which time he swallowed it, and it passed through his body.

         {¶12} Detective Pickenpaugh also interviewed Hess. Hess had apparently arrived at the dorm two days after appellant, on February 27. According to Detective Pickenpaugh, appellant's account and Hess' account were not consistent. Hess did not testify in this action.

         {¶13} On April 29, 2015, the grand jury indicted appellant on one count of illegal conveyance of prohibited items onto the grounds of a detention facility, a violation of R.C. 2921.36(A)(2), a felony of the third degree. Appellant pleaded not guilty, and the case went to trial before a jury on March 22, 2016. The jury returned a guilty verdict. On May 12, 2016, the trial court sentenced appellant to 30 months of incarceration and ordered him to pay costs. Appellant timely filed a notice of appeal on May 17, 2016.

         {¶14} Appellant raises three ...


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