After less than an hour of deliberation on Thursday, 12 jurors found a Lynchburg man not guilty of two counts of receiving stolen property.
Terry M. Yankie, 62, was charged in a July indictment with three counts of fourth-degree felony receiving stolen property. The indictment also sought the forfeiture of a pickup truck owned by Yankie on the grounds that he used his truck to move one of the stolen vehicles around on his property.
Midtrial, Highland County Common Pleas Court Judge Rocky Coss dismissed one of the counts based on the absence of a victim as one of the truck’s owners did not show up to testify.
The judge said that while there is a record of the vehicle being reported as stolen, he said anyone could have made that claim to law enforcement. What was needed was the victim’s testimony that the vehicle had been stolen, Coss said.
Prosecutor Anneka Collins, in her opening statement to jurors, said that three vehicles were stolen in February, all from other counties and one from Kentucky, and all three ended up on Yankie’s Lynchburg farm.
It was a June search warrant that turned up the vehicles, she said. And when he was interviewed, she said Yankie admitted to thinking that “something was fishy” about the situation as he had never received titles on any of the vehicles that he claimed to have been buying from a guy named “Rocko,” later identified in testimony as Jason Loudermilk.
Defense attorney James Boulger said in his opening statement that Loudermilk had “played (Yankie) for a fool.” He said it all started with a phone call from Loudermilk to Yankie about some trucks for sale. There was no further communication, Boulger said, prior to some guys showing up at Yankie’s property with the trucks.
When law enforcement arrived with a search warrant, Boulger said Yankie answered their questions, was mirandized – which Boulger said “didn’t mean anything” to Yankie because he didn’t need a lawyer – and took officers around the property.
Collins called two of the vehicle owners to the stand. Both testified that their trucks were taken from job sites, one from Scioto County and one from Greenup County in Kentucky, as the vehicles were used in their businesses. They each verified that they reported the vehicles stolen upon discovering that they were missing.
When Boulger questioned one of the vehicle owners, the witness said that five trucks associated with his business had been taken from job sites over a period of time. But when Boulger began to ask about insurance claims on the vehicles, Collins objected and judge Rocky Coss sustained it. Boulger let it go after that.
Highland County Sheriff’s Office Det. Sgt. Chris Bowen testified for the state, giving his account of the day the search warrant was served and his account of Yankie being questioned.
Yankie, Bowen said, told him that he paid between $4,500 and $5,000 for the trucks, but did not have titles. Whether he said if the purchases were complete, as Boulger had previously indicated that they were not, was unclear.
The detective testified that Yankie told him he knew Loudermilk “was not a good guy.”
Bowen said he contacted Loudermilk and set up an appointment, but Loudermilk didn’t show up for it. Boulger asked him if he tried to contact Loudermilk again, but Bowen said he didn’t because it would’ve been a “waste of (his) time.”
Coss later said his understanding of the detective’s statement was that it would have been a waste of time in that Loudermilk likely would not have admitted to any wrongdoing on his part.
The defense’s only witness was Yankie, who said that Loudermilk told him he had trucks he wanted to get rid of, and Yankie said he may be interested. Without any more communication, he said, unknown people showed up at his farm with two trucks, one of which ran out of gas in the driveway.
As the defendant runs a farm business and needs his driveway to be open for the various machinery associated with his farm, he said he used his own truck to pull the other truck off the driveway.
He said each time he talked to Loudermilk he was promised titles, but they were never produced.
Of the three trucks, Yankie testified that one with a lift would have been useful to him on the farm. And while the trucks were on his property for up to three months, he said he didn’t use them. He said he’d told Loudermilk that he wouldn’t get the rest of the money until he had the titles. A final price being determined or not was never made clear in testimony.
As to not reporting his suspicions to the authorities or even the theft of his own truck, he indicated that his property had been burglarized “several times,” and that he reported the incidents, but nothing ever came of it.
In closing, Collins said the case was “about patterns and common sense.” She reiterated to jurors that all three stolen trucks were found on Yankie’s property, that he had no titles to any of them, he paid much less than what the trucks were worth, and he admitted that he suspected something wasn’t right, but didn’t do anything about it.
Collins said it was clear that Yankie “received and retained” the trucks, which is particular language contained in the Ohio Revised Code on the offense charged. She asked jurors to consider that if a title is not produced at the time of purchase, wouldn’t a “prudent person” question that?
She said he never contacted law enforcement because if a person knows they have stolen vehicles, they would be implicating themselves by contacting the authorities.
Boulger asked jurors to consider that Yankie had other things consuming his thoughts, like recently finding that his farm account had been wiped out, that “he’s slipping” due to health concerns, and that all that “was part of a set of circumstances … at that time.”
He said Yankie anticipated completing the purchase of the trucks when titles were produced. And over time when the titles weren’t produced, Yankie was “growing suspicious,” Boulger said.
But, the defense attorney asked jurors, “When does that ripen into reasonable belief that property is stolen?”
Also, Boulger asked jurors to consider Yankie’s demeanor when law enforcement showed up with a search warrant, and the defendant “extends them essentially an open invitation,” he said.
Jurors deliberated for just under an hour before returning not guilty verdicts on the two counts. Because of the not guilty verdicts, the matter of Yankie’s truck being forfeited to the state was no longer a consideration.
Following the verdict, Collins said she was “surprised” by the outcome reached by jurors, but that she appreciated the time and attention each gave to considering the matter.
Boulger, in reaction to the verdict, said, “Well, I think they got it right.”
Following closely behind Boulger as they exited the courtroom, Yankie said, “I’m happy.”
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.