Court No. CRI 2017-0290
Joel Sitterly, Huron County Prosecuting Attorney, for
B. Hojnicki-Mathieson, for appellant.
DECISION AND JUDGMENT
1} Defendant-appellant, Christopher Stanford,
appeals the August 2, 2017 judgment of the Huron County Court
of Common Pleas which, following a jury trial finding him
guilty of two counts of aiding and abetting trafficking in
oxycodone and one count of trafficking in oxycodone,
sentenced appellant to a total of 31 months of imprisonment.
For the following reasons, we affirm the trial court's
2} On April 7, 2017, appellant was indicted on two
counts of aiding and abetting in the trafficking of oxycodone
in violation of R.C. 2923.03(A)(2) and 2925.03(A)(1) and
(C)(1)(a), and one count of trafficking in oxycodone, in
violation of R.C. 2925.03(A)(1) and (C)(1)(a). Three
controlled purchases of oxycodone made by a confidential
informant working for the Norwalk Police Department form the
basis of these charges. Following his arrest on March 14,
2017, appellant pled not guilty to the charges.
3} A jury trial commenced on July 19, 2017, and the
following relevant evidence was presented. Count 1, aiding
and abetting in the trafficking of oxycodone, arises from
events on January 18, 2017. Detectives Daniels and Fulton of
the Norwalk Police Department prepared the informant, K.M.,
and surveilled appellant's residence while the controlled
purchase took place. Appellant and his girlfriend, Michelle
Irby, were present and interacted with K.M. during the
transaction. K.M. waited outside the residence for appellant
and Irby to arrive and followed them into the house.
Appellant spoke conversationally with K.M. while Irby
exchanged the money for the pills. The transmitter worn by
K.M. recorded appellant saying "seventy-five for
three" in response to a comment by Irby. Detectives gave
K.M. $75 to purchase three oxycodone pills.
4} By means of a transmitter carried on K.M.'s
person, detectives listened and recorded the transaction.
Detective Daniels, Detective Fulton, and K.M. all testified
at trial regarding the details of the purchase. On
cross-examination, K.M.'s testimony regarding which
individual took possession of the buy money was shown to
contradict recorded statements made during K.M.'s
debriefing with officers immediately following the purchase.
Detective Daniels testified that Irby collected the money, a
statement corroborated by recorded audio of K.M.'s
debriefing following the purchase.
5} Count 2, trafficking in oxycodone, arose from
events of January 20, 2017. K.M. testified that appellant
apprised him of five, five-milligram oxycodone pills
available for sale prior to the transaction. Detectives
Daniels and Fulton prepared K.M. and surveilled
appellant's vehicle during the transaction from
approximately 75 feet away. During debriefing, K.M. stated
that he purchased pills in a hand-to-hand exchange with
appellant inside appellant's vehicle. Appellant was alone
in his vehicle when K.M. entered to make the purchase.
Appellant then left the vehicle, entered his residence, and
returned to the car before the sale's completion.
Detectives listened to audio of the transaction as it
occurred; however, due to malfunctioning equipment no
recording exists. From the detectives' position,
appellant was visible during the purchase, but the
hand-to-hand exchange was not. Both the detectives and K.M.
testified at trial as to the events of the transaction.
6} Count 3, aiding and abetting in trafficking of
oxycodone, arose from events of January 25, 2017. Detectives
Daniels and Fulton were present and again prepared K.M. prior
to the transaction taking place in appellant's home. K.M.
called beforehand and spoke with appellant who greeted him at
the door and let him inside the residence; appellant left the
residence to purchase cigarettes. Irby conducted the
transaction during appellant's absence. In the recording
of the transaction, a disagreement as to the agreed upon
price can be heard; Irby believed the price was $25 per pill,
K.M. disagreed showing her a text from appellant stating the
price as $23 per pill. When appellant returned, he confirmed
the price stated in the text. Irby gave K.M. only two of the
three pills paid for upon learning the pills were meant for a
mutual acquaintance who owed her money. Detectives listened
and recorded the transaction via a transmitter. Both the
detectives and K.M. testified at trial regarding the details
of the transaction.
7} In preparation for all three controlled
purchases, K.M. was searched, wired, and provided documented
buy money. At trial, K.M. testified that the controlled sales
were arranged with appellant "through the phone,"
but could not recall whether it was by call or text.
Detective Fulton's testimony later clarified that none of
the buys were arranged by controlled phone call; rather, K.M.
independently arranged all three buys. Copies of texts
exchanged between K.M. and appellant were not surrendered to
Detective Fulton and were never before the jury
8} On July 20, 2017, the jury returned a verdict
finding appellant guilty of all charges. This appeal followed
with appellant raising three assignments of errors for
I. The evidence at appellant's trial was insufficient to
support the convictions and appellant's convictions are
against the manifest weight of the evidence.
II. Appellant was denied effective assistance of counsel as
guaranteed by the United States and Ohio Constitutions.
III. The trial court erred when it prevented appellant from
introducing into evidence prior bad acts of the confidential
informant, and allowed the admission of improper hearsay
9} In appellant's first assignment of error, he
argues that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient
to support convictions on Counts 1 and 3, and that all three
convictions are against the manifest weight of the evidence.
Appellant asserts that evidence supporting his aiding and
abetting convictions merely establish appellant's
presence at or around the time of the controlled purchases.
10} The Supreme Court of Ohio has held that
"mere presence of an accused at the scene of a crime is
not sufficient to prove, in and of itself, that the accused
was an aider and abettor." State v. Widner, 69
Ohio St.2d 267, 269, 431 N.E.2d 1025 (1982); compare
Smith v. State, 41 Ohio App. 64, 67-68, 179 N.E. 696
(9th Dist.1931). Nevertheless, evidence of aiding and
abetting may be either direct or circumstantial;
consequently, criminal intent may be inferred from
"'presence, companionship and conduct before and
after the offense is committed.'" State v.
Cartellone, 3 Ohio App.3d 145, 150, 444 N.E.2d 68 (8th
Dist.1981), quoting State v. Pruett, 28 Ohio App.2d
29, 34, 273 N.E.2d 884 (4th Dist.1971).
11} Sufficiency of the evidence is "'that
legal standard which is applied to determine whether the case
may go to the jury or whether the evidence is legally
sufficient to support a jury verdict as a matter of
law.'" State v. Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d
380, 386, 678 N.E.2d 541 (1997), quoting Black's Law
Dictionary 1433 (6 Ed.1990). In State v. Jenks, 61
Ohio St.3d 259, 574 N.E.2d 492 (1991), the Ohio Supreme Court
outlined the analysis required to apply this standard:
An appellate court's function when reviewing the
sufficiency of the evidence to support a criminal conviction
is to examine the evidence admitted at trial to determine
whether such evidence, if believed, would convince the
average mind of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable
doubt. The relevant inquiry is whether, after viewing the
evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, any
rational trier of fact could have found the essential
elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt.