Ballard begins first day

Published 12:17 pm Thursday, December 29, 2016

By Jeremy Wells

Judge seeks to tackle drug problems

New Common Pleas Court Judge Andrew Ballard started his first day on Wednesday with a docket full of cases exemplifying the drug problems that plague the region.

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The new judge, who campaigned on a promise to bring a certified drug court to Lawrence County, was sworn in on Tuesday by Lawrence County Municipal Court Judge Donald Capper and spent the day preparing for his first day in court. But he explained that he had actually been following the court closely over the last several weeks “to understand what was being bound over” to his term.

“The level of violent criminal offenses pales in comparison to non-violent drug offenses,” he said, noting that every case in his court today had a drug related component to it.
The judge said that it is “now time to look for alternatives” to the traditional path of sending drug offenders to jail, explaining that there is “dual basis” for taking a treatment-based approach.

The first, according to Ballard, is to treat the problem and reduce recidivism related to drug abuse, while the second is an economic basis. The county is currently experiencing a problem with a lack of space in their jail, which has resulted in additional costs related to transporting and housing inmates in other area facilities. By getting more people in treatment, instead of sending them to jail, the judge hopes to help ease that economic burden. But county pocketbook aside, he feels that treatment, when successful, also benefits the community more and, hopefully, inspires the community to begin addressing addiction problems before they result in a criminal offense.

“We have to remember, this is someone’s (family member),” he said. “You want to hope that someone would do that for your loved one.”

He admitted that any drug court, though, was “only as good as the team presiding over it” and was also dependent on “the desire of the individual to get some control over their life.”

“You’ll never get an addict to clean up until they want to,” he said. “(But) what we want to provide is an opportunity that offers hope. To provide a court based opportunity.
“I hope it inspires the community… to attack the issue before it becomes a problem.”

Ballard’s docket on his first day included cases of trafficking and possession of controlled substances ranging from prescription pills to heroin, cocaine and marijuana, as well as violation of community control sanctions.

Kurtis Carter pleaded not guilty on charges of manufacturing a counterfeit controlled substance and had his next pretrial date set for Jan. 11. Carter is accused of manufacturing fake methamphetamine.

Anthony Collins had his pretrial continued in a case involving charges of drug trafficking and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

Kimberly Gannon was sentenced to 17 months in prison after pleading guilty to charges of possession and trafficking in heroin. She was sentenced to 17 and 11 months on the two counts, with sentences to run concurrently.

Holly Gonzales pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine and was sentenced to four years of Intensive Supervised Probation. This sentence includes completing a drug treatment program and a $1500 fine, with 11 months of time awaiting her if she fails to meet the requirements of her probation.

Scott Wilson had his October sentence for trafficking in heroin reviewed. Wilson was sentenced to four years of Intensive Supervised Probation with 200 hours of community service and completion of an in-patient program at Amended Reeds treatment facility. Failure to complete his program would result in a sentence of 34 months in prison.

Summer Kuhn was scheduled for a pretrial hearing on Jan. 11 for charges of aggravated vehicular assault, possession of Suboxone, failure to reinstate her license, possession of marijuana and a valid warrant.

Sarah Cherry was sentenced to six months in jail, including time served, for violating the terms of her community control sanctions in a previous case for possession of methamphetamine. Cherry was supposed to complete an outpatient treatment program and 200 hours of community service, but failed to complete either. Her probation was transferred to Kentucky, because she had no place to stay while completing a program in Ohio, but she had her transfer rejected by Kentucky when she could not be located at the address she listed. She was detained on a warrant on Nov. 19. While she maintained that she “went to Pathways in Kentucky” she failed to provide proof of counseling or of completing any community service.

Chastity Hall was sentenced to four years under community control sanctions after pleading guilty last week to trafficking in Buprenorphine, a semisynthetic opioid used in pain management and treating addiction. Hall is expected to complete an in-patient rehabilitation program with Land of Goshen and 200 hours of community service as a condition of her sentence.

Steve R. Akers had a pretrial hearing on seven counts of trafficking, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, and having weapons while under disability. Akers is charged with six counts of trafficking in Oxycodone “with activity occurring in the presence of a child” and one charge of trafficking in 55 grams of marijuana, as well as the weapons and corrupt activity charges.

In Judge Charles Cooper’s court Lowell Ratliff Jr. was scheduled for trial on January 19 for domestic violence charges, Maurice Cooper pleaded not guilty to charges of trafficking in cocaine, Benjamin Carrico was set for pretrial on Jan. 18 for two charges of theft of firearm, two charges of burglary, theft of a motor vehicle, and breaking and entering, and Bruce Randolph had his pretrial set for Jan. 18 on charges of tampering with evidence.

Frank D. Smith had his pretrial set for Feb. 8 on charges of complicity to felonious assault, complicity to attempted murder, and obstruction of justice.

Tad Johnson plead guilty to felonious assault for an attack on Carlton Davis using brass knuckles and will be sentenced next week.

Anita Rossiter had her pretrial set for Jan. 18 on charges of expired tags and fleeing from police.

Clayton Hill III had his case continued to Feb. 22 on charges of Oxycodone possession after a police dog triggered on a vehicle where Hill was a passenger during a routine traffic stop.

Anthony Workman had a warrant issued after failing to appear for a pretrial hearing related to theft charges after admitting to pawning an Xbox and a lawnmower belonging to his ex-girlfriend.

Tabitha Colvin was sentenced for parole violation.

Shelly L. Miller will also serve a sentence of 12 months after having her Community Control Sanctions and Intensive Supervised Probation revoked for violating the terms. Miller failed a urinalysis and left Mended Reeds treatment facility against the recommendation of staff.