Speedy guilty verdict for Batesville man

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The Herald-Tribune on 08/24/2016 by Diane Raver

Judge Ryan King presided over the trial in the second floor Circuit Courtroom at the Versailles courthouse.

Judge Ryan King presided over the trial in the second floor Circuit Courtroom at the Versailles courthouse.

VERSAILLES – After hearing testimony from witnesses Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning in Ripley Circuit Court in the trial of Todd Norman, 51, Batesville, who is charged with possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine, a Level 2 felony, the jury began deliberations around 3:30 p.m. Aug. 24. It only took 30 minutes for them to deliver a guilty plea, reported Ripley County Prosecutor Ric Hertel.

In his opening statements, Hertel’s first witness was Joe Mann, Ripley County Court Services field officer. On Feb. 17, Mann, along with fellow field officer Ethan Back, visited the defendant’s residence, 705 Edgewood Drive, Batesville, for a routine visit because Norman was on probation.

After entering the residence, the men discovered that Norman had been drinking, which was a probation violation. Mann said Back made the decision to search the home. They discovered a plastic bag containing a rock-like substance, which was later determined to be 12.59 grams of meth, under a couch cushion. In addition, a digital scale was found under another couch, and a plastic container containing $8,000 was located on a stepladder in another room. A Dell laptop computer and an SD memory card were also collected as evidence. Later, $500 was found in Norman’s pants pocket.

Immediately after finding the illegal drug, Mann contacted the Batesville Police Department, and when Detective Sgt. Blake Roope showed up, he handed the evidence over to him.

The prosecutor asked the witness how this drug is sold. Mann said it is usually comes in half- to 1-gram packages, and 1 gram is “roughly the size of a Sweet ‘n Low packet.” This usually sells for about $100.

Hertel also asked Mann, “Based on your (13 years of) experience as a law enforcement officer, when you find items such as drugs, a scale and cash, is this consistent with drug dealing?” Mann said, “Yes.”

The defendant’s attorney, John Watson, Sunman, asked the witness if he saw any evidence of baggie corners, in which meth is usually packaged, or a ledger of drug deals. Mann said he did not see any.

Watson also wondered, “Can money be used for a lot of things other than drugs?” The officer responded it could.

Patrolman Chris Smith, BPD crime scene investigator, explained how the chain of evidence worked, and that he delivered the rock-like substance to the Indiana State Police Lab, Indianapolis. He also indicated that the residue on the digital scale was never tested.

Roope was the first witness called to the stand Aug. 24. He recalled what evidence was found at Norman’s residence and noted that “oftentimes because of the amount of drugs and currency being exchanged, people keep data of drug deals.” However, when the laptop taken from the residence was searched, there was something wrong with the hard drive, and it couldn’t be accessed.

The detective reported that he talked to several witnesses, Norman’s family and friends.

When Watson asked him if he had asked for any fingerprints or DNA analysis from the evidence, he said he did not. Even though no ledgers were found, Roope revealed, “Not everyone keeps a log of sales.”

Brandy Cline, ISP forensics scientist, announced that her findings on the rock-like substance indicated it “contained meth, a controlled substance.”

Watson called Back to the stand. The community corrections officer reported that on forms Norman filled out for probation, he indicated that he lived alone in the house. However, “he is allowed to have visitors.”

When asked if there was any evidence to show that a female was there, Back said, “Just fake fingernails …. He said they belonged to someone, but I don’t remember who.”

Next, the attorney called Norman to testify.

The defendant said, “I have a regular crew of people who come over and shoot pool with me.” He has a man cave in his basement, which consists of a game room with a pool table, darts and other games, along with a place for musicians to play.

Norman emphasized that the meth did not belong to him and did not know who it belonged to. The man also admitted that he has had financial problems and tax problems with the IRS. Watson said, “He has a unique way to handle his finances.”

After his work checks were directly deposited in his bank account, he would make cash withdrawals and pay most of his bills with cash.

The Batesville resident announced, “I hid the cash in the attic because I don’t want it laying out.” Right before the probation officers came to the door in February, he said he pulled out $500 because he was going to buy a flat screen TV for his man cave and didn’t have time to put the money away, so it was still sitting on the ladder.

Hertel questioned him about why the ladder was left in a spare bedroom when the attic crawl space was in the hallway. He responded, “I never leave the ladder below the attic entrance in case someone comes in.”

In addition, he revealed the scale was used to weigh darts and sometimes gold and ginseng, not to weigh meth.

In his closing statement, the prosecutor reiterated, “Drugs and money, that’s what it comes down to. Buying drugs is a cash business. We’re talking about $8,500 and 12.59 grams of meth … (and) a digital scale, a scale that measures in grams.

“By his own admission, he (Norman) was the sole occupant of the house. He owned the couch where the meth was found. He owned the couch where the scale was found … (and) it’s more common than uncommon for those selling drugs to have a scale because they measure the drugs and drugs are money

“$8,000 was found on the second to top rung of a ladder in a plastic container. Do you think that’s reasonable? …. Look at the big picture. Look at all of it.

“I don’t know what to say about the defendant’s story – far-fetched, unbelievable, fantasylike. Are we to believe some unknown person put 12.59 grams of meth under the couch cushion? Are we to believe that the scale was used to weigh darts? ….

“Beyond a reasonable doubt, not beyond any doubt …. Don’t fall for a story. That’s what it it, a make-believe story. The evidence clearly shows the defendant is guilty of the crime he is charged with.”

Watson asked the jury, “Do we really have possession? There is no evidence he possessed it. I have a feeling some of you don’t approve of the lifestyle Mr. Norman lives, drinking, having women over, partying. We can see people were in and out of there.

“Why wouldn’t they send the scale to be tested? It could and should have been tested …. The cash – We gave you the bank records. He (Norman) had tax problems and had been sued and he told you he pulls cash out of his account …. There is no evidence that the money came from selling anything, including meth or financing a drug operation.

“The charge is possession with intent to sell or finance …. Does the evidence add up? …. Suspicion or speculation is not good enough. If … (the prosecution) has not proved it, you have to say not guilty.”

Hertel added, “The charge is possession with intent to deliver. He did not deliver, but it’s the intent to deliver …. Convict him of the crime …. It’s time to hold him accountable.”