A Highland County jury found a Hillsboro man guilty on Monday of aggravated possession of methamphetamine, a fifth-degree felony, after deliberating for about one hour.
Testimony during the trial centered around a February drug bust at a shopping center on North High Street in Hillsboro, during which Steven Allen Jacobs, 51, was arrested after officers found a small bag of meth where he had been sitting while he was detained.
Detective Randy Sanders and Deputy Mike Gaines of the Highland County Sheriff’s Office testified that law enforcement officers from around the county were stationed around the shopping center on Feb. 14 to observe a suspected drug transaction between a group from Dayton and Travis Leathley, 31, Hillsboro.
Sanders testified that he watched Leathley get into a black Chrysler 300 in the shopping center parking lot, then get out and approach a red SUV.
Gaines said he observed, from a different vantage point, Leathley handing an object to the driver of the SUV, who turned out to be Jacobs.
Sanders said the SUV was not a suspected vehicle in the investigation until Leathley approached it.
Officer Brian Butler of the Hillsboro Police Department testified that he was told to initiate a traffic stop on the SUV. Butler said when he initiated the traffic stop in the shopping center, the SUV appeared to halt abruptly, continued for a moment, then stopped.
Butler said he removed Jacobs from the vehicle and checked him for weapons, then, finding none, handcuffed him and sat him down on the ground while the vehicle was searched.
A set of scales were recovered from inside the SUV, but no drugs were found in it, according to various testimonies.
Gaines testified that he offered assistance to Butler as he detained Jacobs, and when Gaines helped Jacobs up off the ground, he observed a small bag of methamphetamine where Jacobs had been sitting.
When officers inquired about the bag, Jacobs said the wind had blown it there, according to Butler.
Upon searching the area, officers recovered another bag of meth near where the SUV had stopped the first time, Butler said.
“I suspected something may have been tossed from the vehicle,” Butler told the court.
Defense attorney JD Wagoner noted when addressing the jury that the bag was not found when Jacobs was patted down, and added that it didn’t make sense for Jacobs to throw some drugs out the window and keep some to himself knowing he was going to be stopped.
After deliberating for about an hour, the jury found Jacobs guilty.
Following the trial, Highland County Common Pleas Court Judge Rocky Coss asked Jacobs if he would test positive for any drugs, and Jacobs said he would test positive for marijuana. He was was remanded to police custody.
Jacobs will be sentenced on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. He faces up to one year in prison.
Wagoner declined to comment on the case.
Highland County Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins told The Times-Gazette she was pleased with the outcome of the trial.
“I appreciate the jury’s time and attention,” she said. “Officer Butler did a great job investigating the case. I really appreciate the cooperative effort of law enforcement in this case.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.