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State v. Ward

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Third District, Crawford

November 13, 2017

STATE OF OHIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
TYLER R. WARD, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

         Appeal from Crawford County Common Pleas Court Trial Court No. 16-CR-0326.

          Adam Charles Stone for Appellant.

          Robert J. Kidd for Appellee.

          OPINION

          ZIMMERMAN, J.

         {¶1} Defendant-Appellant, Tyler R. Ward ("Ward"), brings this appeal from the judgment of the Crawford County Common Pleas Court finding him guilty of four of his five counts of trafficking in drugs and sentencing him to an aggregate sentence of 54 months in prison. Ward was found not guilty on one of the counts. On appeal, Ward claims that: (1) the trial court committed plain error regarding its jury instruction pertaining to "knowledge;" (2) the trial court committed plain error in allowing counts II & IV to be presented to the jury; and (3) the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing Ward to consecutive maximum sentences on his convictions. For the reasons set forth below, the judgment of the Crawford County Common Pleas Court is affirmed.

         Facts & Procedural History

         {¶2} On July 7, 2016, the Crawford County Sheriffs Department ("Sheriffs Department") set up a drug "buy" through its use of a confidential informant ("CI"). The CI informed the Sheriffs Department that he could buy drugs from a person named Tiffany Quaintance ("Tiffany"). Tiffany told the CI that she would sell him drugs and that her boyfriend (Ward) would be present during the sale.[1] Tiffany informed the CI that she would sell him one gram of heroin and three Xanax tablets for $125. Tiffany and the CI agreed that the sale would occur at a park in Crawford County. However, prior to arriving at the park, the terms of the drug buy changed when the CI agreed to purchase one gram of heroin and just one Xanax tablet for $125.

         {¶3} Equipped with an audio recorder provided by law enforcement, the CI met Tiffany and Ward at Cobey Park in Galion, Ohio. When the CI arrived at the park, he noticed that Tiffany was "strung out" and unable to interact, so Ward conducted and completed the drug sale with the CI. Prior to leaving the park the CI asked Ward if the heroin contained fentanyl, to which Ward replied that the heroin was pure. When he completed the drug buy the CI returned to the law enforcement officers (working with him) and turned over the drugs. The CI also identified Ward as the individual from whom he purchased drugs, based on the photo of Ward obtained from Tiffany's Facebook page.

         {¶4} A second buy involving the CI and Ward took place on August 9, 2016.[2]This time the CI arranged to purchase one gram of heroin from Ward for $100. Ward agreed to meet the CI at East Park in Galion, Ohio to complete the buy. Just prior to the sale, the Sheriffs Department equipped the CI with a video recorder which recorded the entire drug transaction between the CI and Ward. After completing the buy, the CI returned to law enforcement officers (working with him) and turned over the purchased heroin. During this transaction, Ward can be heard telling the CI how Tiffany sold his (Ward's) cousin heroin containing fentanyl that resulted in his (Ward's) cousin's death.

         {¶5} The drugs purchased from Ward on July 7, 2016 and August 9, 2016 were sent to the Bureau of Criminal Investigations ("BCI") to be chemically analyzed. BCI reported that the pill Ward sold on July 7, 2016 contained Alprazolam, (the generic name for Xanax), a Schedule IV drug. BCI also reported that both heroin samples of the drug buys from the July 7th and August 9th transactions contained heroin and fentanyl. Heroin is a Schedule I substance, and fentanyl is a Schedule II substance.

         {¶6} On November 7, 2016, the Crawford County Grand Jury indicted Ward on five counts of Trafficking in Drugs regarding the two drug transactions. Specifically, the Grand Jurors indicted Ward on: Count I - Trafficking in Heroin, in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A) & (C)(6)(a), a felony of the fifth degree; Count II -Trafficking in Fentanyl, in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A) & (C)(1)(a), a felony of the fourth degree; Count III - Trafficking in Alprazolam, in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A) & (C)(2)(a), a felony of the fifth degree; Count IV - Trafficking in Heroin, in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A) & (C)(6)(a), a felony of the fifth degree; and Count V - Trafficking in Fentanyl, in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A) & (C)(1)(a), a felony of the fourth degree. Counts I, II, and III pertained to the July 7, 2016 drug buy and Counts IV and V were relative to the August 9, 2016 buy.

         {¶7} On December 21, 2016 Ward filed a motion to suppress in the trial court, and a hearing occurred on the motion on January 30, 2017. The trial court denied the motion on January 31, 2017 and the matter proceeded to a jury trial on February 9th, 2017.

         {¶8} At trial, the State filed a motion for a proposed curative jury instruction regarding "knowledge." The trial court granted the State's instruction over Ward's objection.

         {¶9} On February 10, 2017, the jury found Ward guilty on Counts I (Trafficking in Heroin), III (Trafficking in Alprazolam), IV (Trafficking in Heroin), and V (Trafficking in Fentanyl) and not guilty of Count II (Trafficking in Fentanyl). The trial court proceeded to sentencing, and after hearing arguments regarding merger and consecutive sentencing, the trial court sentenced Ward to 12 months in prison on Count I; 12 months in prison on Count III; 12 months in prison on Count IV; and 18 months in prison on Count V. The trial court further ordered that all sentences run consecutively to each other for a total prison term of fifty-four (54) months. The trial court journalized its sentence on February 13, 2017, from which Ward appeals, presenting the following assignments of error for our review:

ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. I
THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED PLAIN ERROR IN PERMITTING THE JURY INSTRUCTION AGAINST APPELLANT'S OBJECTION DEFINING "KNOWLEDGE" AND DIMINISHING WHAT THE STATE OF OHIO IS REQUIRED TO PROVE BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT.
ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. II
THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED PLAIN ERROR IN ALLOWING THE CHARGES OF COUNTS II AND V TO BE PRESENTED TO THE JURY WHEN THE CHARGES ARE BASED OUT OF THE SAME INTERACTION AND APPELLANT DEMONSTRATED NO KNOWLEDGE OF FENTANYL BEING PRESENT IN THE TRANSFER.
ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. III
THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN SENTENCING APPELLANT TO A MAXIMUM SENTENCE IN EACH OF THE FOUR CONVICTED COUNTS TO BE SERVED CONSECUTIVELY WITH NO EXPLANATION PROVIDED IN THE ...

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