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State v. Crossty

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Clermont

October 23, 2017

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CHARLES R. CROSSTY, Defendant-Appellant.

         CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM CLERMONT COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No. 2016CR0137

          D. Vincent Faris, Clermont County Prosecuting Attorney, Nicholas A. Horton, for plaintiff-appellee.

          Soumyajit Dutta, for defendant-appellant.

          OPINION

          HENDRICKSON, P.J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Charles R. Crossty, appeals from his convictions in the Clermont County Court of Common Pleas for engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and trafficking in heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm appellant's convictions.

         I. FACTS

         {¶ 2} Following an investigation by the Clermont County Narcotics Unit ("CCNU") that took place between January 22 and February 29, 2016, appellant was arrested and indicted on (1) six counts of trafficking in heroin in violation of R.C. 2925.03, of which two were felonies of the second degree, three were felonies of the third degree, and one was a felony of the fourth degree, (2) three counts of trafficking in cocaine in violation of R.C. 2925.03, felonies of the third degree, (3) two counts of aggravated trafficking in drugs in violation of R.C. 2925.03, felonies of the third degree, where the substance trafficked was fentanyl, a schedule II drug, and (4) one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity in violation of R.C. 2923.32(A)(1), a felony of the first degree. All of the trafficking counts specified that that the offenses were committed in the vicinity of a juvenile, and three of the trafficking counts contained a specification seeking the forfeiture of $1, 035 in cash that was found on appellant at the time he was arrested.

         {¶ 3} A three-day bench trial was held in October 2016. At trial, the state presented testimony from Officer Nick DeRose and Lieutenant Douglas Ventre regarding CCNU's investigation into appellant's distribution of narcotics in and around New Richmond, Clermont County, Ohio. The state also presented testimony from James Burress, a confidential informant who purchased drugs from appellant, and from Brandy Moore and Rex Perkins, two individuals involved in appellant's drug-trafficking business.

         {¶ 4} Officer DeRose testified that on January 22, 2016, Burress contacted him to express concern with the flood of heroin that had entered the New Richmond area. Burress, an admitted drug addict, informed DeRose that appellant was the source of the drugs, and Burress agreed to serve as a confidential informant as he knew appellant and had purchased drugs from him in the past.[1]

         {¶ 5} Working with DeRose, Burress arranged to purchase heroin and cocaine from appellant on six different occasions. Burress testified he called and texted appellant from the residence he was staying at on Weil Road in New Richmond, Clermont County, Ohio to set up the controlled buys. During these conversations, the type of drug, quantity to be purchased, and amount to be paid were established. Appellant directed Burress to various locations to complete the transactions. Two of the controlled buys occurred at Perkins' apartment, located at 718 Washington Street in New Richmond, Clermont County, Ohio. The other four controlled buys occurred on or near Eastern Avenue in Hamilton County, Ohio.

         {¶ 6} At trial, Perkins testified he had known appellant for about nine or ten months and appellant dealt him heroin and crack cocaine. About three or four months before appellant was arrested in February 2016, appellant approached Perkins about establishing his apartment as a "trap house" where drugs would be sold. Perkins permitted appellant to sell drugs out of his apartment in exchange for appellant "tak[ing] care" of him by giving him drugs, picking things up for him from the store, and caring for the apartment. Perkins allowed his apartment to be used as a trap house, even though this violated the terms of a Cooperating Individual Agreement he signed with CCNU when he became a confidential informant in August 2014.

         {¶ 7} Perkins testified appellant personally sold drugs out of the apartment "basically all day, every day." Once the apartment was established as a trap house, appellant turned the day-to-day dealings over to Moore and Miguel "Mike" Rivera. According to Perkins, Moore was at his apartment "every day" to sell heroin and cocaine.

         {¶ 8} Moore testified she met appellant in November 2015, and she bought drugs from him in New Richmond. Moore and appellant reached an agreement wherein Moore would sell appellant's drugs in exchange for appellant giving her drugs to feed her own addiction. Moore stated she and Rivera both sold drugs out of Perkins' apartment. For two or three months, Moore stayed at Perkins' apartment and sold drugs "all day long, " completing more than 100 drug transactions for appellant. Moore explained she received a new supply of drugs from appellant every day, usually around five grams of heroin and cocaine. Although the drugs were sold for "street prices, " appellant dictated how much of the drugs were to be sold and for what price. Once the drugs were sold, Moore would turn the money over to appellant. Occasionally, Moore would drive appellant "downtown" to buy more drugs from his supplier. She would also occasionally bring buyers, such as Burress, to appellant.

         A. First Controlled Buy - January 25, 2016 (Count One)

         {¶ 9} On January 25, 2016, while working with CCNU, Burress arranged to purchase 2 grams of heroin from appellant. The sale occurred at Perkins' apartment in New Richmond. Prior to arriving at the apartment, Burress met with DeRose. Burress was searched, a wire placed on him, and $365 given to him for the purchase of the heroin.

         {¶ 10} DeRose drove Burress to the apartment and waited inside his car while Burress went into the apartment to purchase the drugs. Burress testified he had to settle an old debt owed to appellant before he could make the purchase. After giving appellant money to clear up this debt, appellant sold him the heroin they had agreed to over the phone. Burress explained appellant personally weighed the drugs and handed them over to him. Burress left the apartment and returned to DeRose's car, where he turned over drugs. The drugs were tested at the Hamilton County Crime Laboratory ("HCCL") and consisted of 1.219 grams of heroin.

         B. Second Controlled Buy - February 1, 2016 (Count Two)

         {¶ 11} On February 1, 2016, Burress arranged a second buy with appellant for the purchase of 2 grams of heroin for $280. Appellant told Burress to go to Perkins' apartment for the exchange.

         {¶ 12} Burress again met with DeRose, where he was searched, a wire placed on him, and $280 given to him for the purchase of the heroin. DeRose drove Burress to the apartment and waited inside his car while Burress went inside to purchase the drugs. Appellant was not present at Perkins' apartment for the transaction. Instead, Rivera handed the drugs over to Burress in exchange for $280. After leaving the apartment, Burress turned the drugs over to DeRose. The drugs were subsequently tested at HCCL and consisted of .930 grams of heroin.

         C. Third Controlled Buy - February 18, 2016 (Count Three)

         {¶ 13} Following the first two buys, DeRose had Burress arrange to buy a larger amount of heroin from appellant. On February 18, 2016, Burress contacted appellant by phone from a residence on Weil Road in New Richmond, and the terms of the purchase were agreed upon - 5 grams of heroin in exchange for $850. Appellant told Burress New Richmond was getting "too hot" and he wanted to conduct the transaction at a UDF in Hamilton County.

         {¶ 14} Burress met with DeRose, where both Buress and his car were searched, a wire placed on him, and $850 given to him for the purchase of the heroin. Burress drove himself to the UDF, where law enforcement officers were stationed to monitor the exchange. Once at UDF, Burress received a phone call from appellant, directing him to a home on Eastern Avenue in Hamilton County. Burress, followed by law enforcement, drove to the new location.

         {¶ 15} Once inside the home on Eastern Avenue, Burress gave appellant the agreed $850 in exchange for the drugs. Burress explained appellant weighed the drugs before handing them over. At the time of the exchange, Burress noticed there was a juvenile boy and two juvenile girls present. Burress testified the two girls were between 12 and 16 years of age.

         {¶ 16} After completing the transaction, Burress left the Eastern Avenue residence and met with DeRose to turn over the drugs he received from appellant. The drugs were tested at HCCL and were found to be 3.1 grams of heroin.

         D. Fourth Controlled Buy - February 22, 2016 (Count Four)

         {¶ 17} On February 22, 2016, Burress arranged to purchase 8 grams of crack cocaine from appellant for $750. Appellant instructed Burress to go to the Eastern Avenue residence for the exchange.

         {¶ 18} Burress again met with DeRose. Both Buress and his car were searched, a wire was placed on him, and $750 given to him for the purchase of the cocaine. Burress drove to the Eastern Avenue residence, entered the home, and purchased the drugs from appellant. The two female juveniles who had been present at the February 18, 2016 buy were present for this exchange. While purchasing the drugs, appellant told Burress about a problem he was having in New Richmond with a couple of his dealers. Burress testified appellant told him that "Mike - Miguel and Brandy had had a situation where * * * Mike was taking a package to Brandy and it either didn't get there or got there light * * * [and appellant] had to go down and straighten it out." During this transaction, Burress noticed handguns in the residence, which were laying out in the open.

         {¶ 19} While Burress was inside the Eastern Avenue residence, he was being monitored by law enforcement. Lieutenant Ventre monitored the controlled buy from a vehicle parked near the residence. Ventre observed Burress, appellant, and a young female, later identified as 14-year-old L.M., enter the residence where the drug transaction took place. After Burress purchased the drugs and exited the home, Ventre saw appellant and L.M. leave the residence together. Ventre also saw a boy in his "mid-teens" standing at the front door of the Eastern Avenue residence.

         {¶ 20} After leaving the Eastern Avenue residence, Burress met with DeRose to turn over the drugs he had purchased from appellant. The drugs were tested at HCCL and found to consist of 5.034 grams of cocaine.

         E. Fifth Controlled Buy - February 24, 2016 (Count Five)

         {¶ 21} On February 24, 2016, DeRose had Burress contact appellant to see about purchasing 6 grams of heroin and a firearm. Appellant offered to sell the drugs and firearm in exchange for $1, 350. Burress was directed to the Eastern Avenue residence to make the exchange.

         {¶ 22} Burress met with DeRose. Both Buress and his car were searched; Burress was fitted with a wire, and given $1, 350 for the purchase of the gun and heroin. Burress drove to the Eastern Avenue residence and purchased the drugs from appellant. Appellant did not sell Burress a gun at this time. Appellant told Burress he would give him a gun later, as he "did not like to carry guns and dope at the same time." Burress testified three juveniles, who were between the ages of 14 and 16, were present at the time he purchased the drugs.

         {¶ 23} Ventre and other law enforcement officers monitored Burress' purchase. Ventre observed appellant, Burress, and two other adults enter the Eastern Avenue residence. While the adults were inside, Ventre saw a young child, somewhere between six and eight years of age, get out of the vehicle appellant had been traveling in and enter the residence.

         {¶ 24} After making his purchase and leaving the Eastern Avenue residence, Burress met with DeRose. Burress turned over the drugs, which were subsequently tested ...


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