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State v. Mathis

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Lake

June 10, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
BRYAN B. MATHIS, Defendant-Appellant.

          Criminal Appeal from the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2016 CR 000368.

          Charles E. Coulson, Lake County Prosecutor, and Jennifer A. McGee, Assistant Prosecutor, Lake County Administration Building, (For Plaintiff-Appellee).

          Vanessa R. Clapp, Lake County Public Defender, and Melissa Ann Blake, Assistant Public Defender, (For Defendant-Appellant).

          OPINION

          MATT LYNCH, J.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant, Bryan B. Mathis, appeals his convictions, following a jury trial, in the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, for Trafficking in Marijuana and Resisting Arrest. The issues to be determined by this court are whether a conviction for Trafficking in Marijuana is supported by the evidence when the marijuana recovered from the defendant was packaged separately and he was in possession of a large sum of cash and whether a conviction for Resisting Arrest is supported by the evidence when the defendant tried to flee after he had already been handcuffed and placed in the police cruiser and when he believed the arrest was unlawful. For the following reasons, we affirm the decision of the court below.

         {¶2} On August 12, 2016, Mathis was indicted by the Lake County Grand Jury for the following: Trafficking in Marijuana (Count One), a felony of the fifth degree, in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A)(2); Possessing Criminal Tools (Count Two), a felony of the fifth degree, in violation of R.C. 2923.24; Resisting Arrest (Count Three), a misdemeanor of the second degree, in violation of R.C. 2921.33(A); and Possession of Marijuana (Count Four), a minor misdemeanor, in violation of R.C. 2925.11. Counts One, Two, and Four also had R.C. 2941.1417 forfeiture specifications.

         {¶3} Mathis filed a Motion to Suppress and the trial court suppressed statements made while he was questioned in a police cruiser without being read his Miranda rights. The court permitted the inclusion of marijuana obtained after questioning pursuant to the doctrine of inevitable discovery.

         {¶4} A jury trial was held on June 19 and 20, 2018. Prior to voir dire, the State moved to dismiss Counts Two and Four and the accompanying forfeiture specifications. At trial, the following testimony and evidence were presented on the remaining charges.

         {¶5} On April 3, 2016, at around 9 p.m., Patrolman Don Swindell of the Mentor Police Department stopped a vehicle for a marked lanes violation. Upon stopping the car, in which Mathis was a passenger, Swindell discovered that it was a rental car. During the stop, Swindell observed the odor of burnt marijuana, which is indicative of smoking marijuana. He also discovered that Mathis had a "prior traffic ticket" that "he needed to deal with," removed him from the vehicle, handcuffed him, and checked him for weapons. At that time, he found that Mathis had large wads of currency in both of his front pockets, which he testified was in different denominations ranging from $5 to $50. Swindell did not testify to the total amount of money recovered but stated that Mathis' right pocket contained $1, 508.[1]

         {¶6} Mathis was then placed in the rear of Swindell's police cruiser while he was awaiting confirmation on the traffic ticket from another agency. While Mathis was in the cruiser, Swindell smelled raw marijuana Swindell had Mathis exit the vehicle, conducted a further search, and located a "large baggie that contained smaller baggies of prepackaged marijuana" in Mathis' underwear There were eight separately packaged baggies "that were similar in size and weight" In Swindell's opinion, the weights of the marijuana and packaging, as well as the way the money was carried, was consistent with distribution of drugs Patrolman Ryan Heramb, who participated in the stop, concurred with this opinion. Swindell also opined that the use of rental cars was common among drug dealers and traffickers, since the car driven while committing a trafficking offense is subject to forfeiture.

         {¶7} Swindell testified that after the marijuana was recovered, Mathis was told he would be arrested for trafficking. At that time, Mathis attempted to run and Swindell and Heramb tried to stop him. All three men fell, there was a struggle, and the officers were able to get Mathis back into the police car.

         {¶8} Patrolman Michael Orf testified that a search of the vehicle did not recover a wallet or drug paraphernalia such as rolling paper or pipes. Cigarettes were recovered but there was no marijuana found within the cigarettes.

         {¶9} William Koubek, a forensic analyst at the Lake County Crime Laboratory, testified that the total amount of marijuana was 33.79 grams. The amount contained within the individual baggies was 6.8, 6.7, 3.46, 3.41, 3.4, 3.38, 3.35, and 3.29 grams.

         {¶10} Sergeant Brad Kemp of the Lake County Narcotics Agency testified that the packaging and weight of the drugs was indicative of drug trafficking and he did not believe it would be individually packaged if it was for personal use. Typically drug dealers do not give multiple individual bags to a purchaser of marijuana. He opined that the amount of drugs in Mathis' possession was enough marijuana for 101 joints, which would also be inconsistent with personal use. The weights of the marijuana baggies were consistent with a ...


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