• 48°

Drug crimes fill county court

She celebrated her 18th birthday in May. If she is convicted of all the charges against her and gets the maximum sentence for those crimes, Samantha Horn will celebrate the next 50 birthdays behind bars.

Horn, of 134 Private Drive 53, Proctorville, was arraigned Wednesday in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court on charges of trafficking in crack cocaine, trafficking in powder cocaine, trafficking in heroin, possession of crack cocaine, possession of powder cocaine, possession of heroin and possession of criminal tools.

She pleaded not guilty to all of the charges through her attorney, Tyler Smith.

“Needless to say, this is a serious matter. Five of these are F-1s (first-degree felonies) and one is an F-2,” Lawrence County Prosecutor J.B. Collier Jr., said. “This is the result of an eight-month undercover investigation by federal and local agents. The amount of heroin is probably the most, well, it is the most seen in Lawrence County.”

Collier asked Judge Charles Cooper to set a $250,000 cash bond for Horn.

But Smith countered that Horn is young, has no felony record and is not a flight risk.

Cooper set Horn’s bond at $250,000 cash and ordered her to return to court July 8 for a pretrial conference.

Horn was one of several alleged drug offenders who appeared in court Wednesday, some for arraignment and some to plead guilty to the charges against them.

Nancy Ballengee, of Huntington, W.Va., was arraigned on charges of aggravated robbery, tampering with evidence and trafficking in crack cocaine.

She pleaded not guilty through her attorney, Mike Davenport.

“The defendant has an extensive criminal history and these charges, needless to say, are extremely serious,” Collier said in asking for a $100,000 cash bond.

Davenport asked for a lower bond, saying Ballengee is not a flight risk. Cooper agreed to Collier’s request but said he is willing to revisit the issue later on.

He scheduled a July 15 pretrial conference.

Ballengee’s alleged cohort, William C. Pannell, of 505 Township Road 1239, was arraigned on charges of aggravated robbery, tampering with evidence, possession of powder cocaine, trafficking in powder cocaine and possession of criminal tools.

Pannell pleaded not guilty through his attorney, Derick Fisher.

“This is a companion case to the previous one, Ms. Ballengee. Mr. Pannell has an extensive criminal history. He has spent time in prison. I feel he is a flight risk,” Collier said of Pannell.

Fisher disagreed, saying Pannell is a Proctorville resident. Cooper set bond at $75,000 cash or surety and scheduled a pretrial conference for July 15.

Stephanie Kiser, of 161 Township Road 1189, South Point, was arraigned on felony charges of tampering with evidence, possession of crack cocaine and misdemeanor charges of endangering children and possession of drugs.

She pleaded not guilty through Davenport, who is also her attorney.

Assistant Lawrence County Prosecutor Mack Anderson told Judge D. Scott Bowling that Kiser has a criminal history and is in jail now serving a 90-day sentence through Ironton Municipal Court.

He asked that her bond be set at $25,000 cash or surety. Bowling set a $25,000 own recognizance (OR) bond plus a $25,000 cash or surety bond and ordered her to return to court July 15 for a pretrial conference.

Joseph V. Stewart, of 119 Ashland Drive, South Point, was arraigned on a six-count drug indictment. He pleaded not guilty through Davenport, who is also his attorney.

“Mr. Stewart appears to be a career criminal,” Collier said in asking for a $100,000 cash bond for Stewart as well. “He has been in trouble all his life and has been to the penitentiary on several occasions. Two charges are for failure to appear (for court appointments). He has made a statement implicating himself.”

Davenport countered that Stewart is not a flight risk and the failure to appear charges may have been the result of some confusion rather than Stewart’s willful violation of a court appointment.

He said Stewart works for his mother-in-law, who needs him. Collier countered that, “He’s not been out of the pen six months and already he’s in trouble.”

Cooper set bond at $100,000 cash or real property and scheduled a pretrial conference for July 15.

Steve Erwin, of Dayton, pleaded guilty on a bill of information to one count of aggravated possession of drugs.

Bowling sentenced him to four years in prison but, said with good behavior, Erwin could be eligible for judicial release after five months. If he is released early, Erwin will serve up to four years community control sanctions (also known as probation).

Derick Fisher, who is also Erwin’s attorney, said his client looks forward to going to prison because he recognizes he needs help for a substance abuse problem.

“These facilities do have programs and he looks forward to taking them,” Fisher said.