A mistrial was declared Friday after a Highland County jury could not agree on a verdict for a Hillsboro man accused of buying a stolen welder and torches.
According to the jury foreman, nine jurors were in favor of a guilty verdict and three voted for acquittal in the case against Jason Robert Leston, 41, Hillsboro, who was charged with receiving stolen property, a fifth-degree felony.
Much of the case hinged on testimony from the two young men who allegedly sold the stolen items to Leston — Dawson Carter, 18, Hillsboro, and a juvenile male.
While it was not clear where and how the two young men came into possession of the items, both testified that they sold them to Leston. The juvenile said Leston paid them $125 for the items. Carter said they split the money 50-50.
Both were charged with receiving stolen property, Carter in Highland County Common Pleas Court and the juvenile in Highland County Juvenile Court. Carter testified that he was allowed to enter an alternative sentencing program offered by the Highland County Prosecutor’s Office on the condition that he would testify for the state in Leston’s case. The juvenile said he admitted to his charge in July and was placed on six months of probation.
Witnesses testified that after a confrontation with the victim, Carter and the juvenile went to Leston and asked to buy back the stolen items. The juvenile said Leston told them to leave and never come back.
The stolen items were never recovered, according to Deputy J.D. Adams, who investigated the case. Adams said Leston denied all knowledge of the stolen items when he was interviewed.
Highland County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Jim Roeder argued in closing statements that the items not being recovered did not damage the state’s case, since that was not an essential element of proving the crime.
Roeder said that while the testimonies of Carson and the juvenile were inconsistent with one another on how the two came into possession of the items, “after the items were in their possession, their stories virtually matched.”
Attorney Scott Evans, who represented Leston, said the prosecution was “relying on the word of admitted thieves” to prove the case, adding that Carter “was granted a sweetheart deal” by prosecutors for his testimony.
Roeder argued that Carter told authorities he had sold the items to Leston prior to being admitted into the alternative sentencing program.
Evans said there was too much ambiguity surrounding the details of the case for the jury to deliver a guilty verdict.
“There was ambiguity then, there is ambiguity now,” he said.
Testimony was relatively brief and the jury was sent to deliberate before noon. The state rested around 10:30 a.m., and the defense called no witnesses and presented no evidence.
After deliberating for more than two hours, the jury informed Judge Rocky Coss shortly before 3 p.m. that it was at an impasse. Coss asked if the jury had any legal questions that could resolve the disagreement, and the jury said it had no questions. Coss declared the mistrial.
Highland County Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins said Friday afternoon that Leston is still under indictment and subject to further prosecution.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.