Trial begins, former jailer accused of smuggling weed into county jailBy MARY ANN GREIER
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LISBON - Jurors saw a videotape Tuesday showing defendant and former jailer Jason Jackson retrieving a package from his pickup in the jail parking lot which witnesses confirmed contained marijuana.
The jury trial began Tuesday morning for the suspended St. Clair Township police officer who worked at the Columbiana County jail until he was caught with the pot-containing package two years ago.
He was indicted last July for one count of illegal conveyance of a drug of abuse onto the grounds of a detention facility, a third-degree felony. If convicted, the 30-year-old East Liverpool resident could face one to five years in prison besides the end of his law enforcement career.
Court documents alleged he had two packages of loose leaf tobacco, one containing marijuana, delivered to him in the bed of his pickup in the jail parking lot off of County Home Road outside Lisbon on March 4, 2007.
His attorney, Dominic Frank, told the jury of 10 men and two women that he is not disputing the fact that a package was delivered to the open bed of his client's pickup and that it did contain a small amount of marijuana, 3.7 grams.
What he instructed the jurors to ask themselves is "what did Jason Jackson know when he walked out to the truck and when did he know it?" Frank claimed Jackson only knew there was marijuana when told so by the county Drug Task Force agents.
Detective Troy Walker, a fellow police officer from St. Clair Township assigned to the DTF at the time, testified that after agents approached Jackson at his truck, Jackson said "They only told me it was tobacco."
Walker also testified that Jackson approached him in February about problems he was having with inmates offering him money to bring contraband into the jail. Walker said he told Jackson not to do it and to call him if that happened again.
County Chief Assistant Prosecutor John Gamble asked Walker if he was contacted by Jackson from March 1 through March 4, the days leading up to the package delivery, and he said he wasn't. Then Gamble had him repeat the comment he heard Jackson make - "They only told me it was tobacco" - and Gamble said he apparently talked with someone, with Walker agreeing, "I would assume."
During opening arguments, Gamble outlined the events of March 2, 3 and 4 which led to the charge against Jackson, a charge which had already been filed against two other corrections officers at the jail for smuggling contraband to inmates. The DTF had been investigating allegations that guards were smuggling marijuana, tobacco and cell phones into the jail.
Gamble noted that the first words out of Jackson's mouth when the officers approached him were, "What am I doing? I'm a police officer." Gamble answered the question by saying what he was doing was knowingly conveying a drug of abuse onto the grounds of a detention facility.
Walker outlined the events beginning with March 2 when DTF agents met in the prosecutor's office with an informant identified as Donald Johnson and his attorney regarding inmates calling on cell phones and arranging for the delivery of packages. Johnson had received a call from an inmate asking him to deliver $100 worth of marijuana to a woman identified as Jessica.
Johnson was told by the agents that they would not provide him with marijuana, that he would have to see what else he could do. He later learned that Jessica already had drugs and needed gas money, so he called Walker, they met and Walker gave him $20 to give to the woman. Walker followed him and photographed his meeting with the woman, who was supposed to drop off the package of drugs to the back of a silver Dodge pickup in the jail parking lot on March 3. They learned the pickup belonged to Jackson.
A search warrant was secured to search Jackson's truck and Jackson and DTF agent Detective Dan Downard set up surveillance in a van with a view of the jail parking lot. On March 3, Downard's video showed Jackson approach his truck, look in the bed on the driver side, then walk to the back of the truck and talk on his cell phone. No package was ever delivered. Under cross-examination by Frank, both Downard and Walker said they didn't know who was on the other end of the cell phone.
The next day, March 4, Johnson and Walker talked again and Johnson said the inmate wanted him to take money to another subject identified as Della Taylor. The DTF agents instructed him to call the inmate back and offer to deliver the package himself, which he would pick up from Taylor's residence. He picked up the package, with Walker following him, and then they went to a safe location to inspect what was actually two packages containing loose leaf tobacco, with one containing marijuana. He had been told to add on ounce of marijuana to the package, along with $55 for the defendant, but DTF agents didn't allow it. One ounce is equal to 28 grams. The package was supposed to be delivered by 5 p.m.
They closed the packages and placed them in one plastic bag, which Johnson then placed on the passenger side of the bed of Jackson's pickup, at the direction of the DTF agents, with the video camera rolling at 4:41 p.m. Jackson came out once with his supervisor and met a woman in the parking lot who was identified as his girlfriend. She gave them a bag and they went inside. Then about 40 minutes later, at 9:40 p.m., Jackson came back outside, looked in the bed of his pickup on the driver side, then walked to the passenger side, opened his passenger side door, then took the package and appeared to be looking at the package on the passenger seat.
Frank raised several issues during the testimony of Downard and Walker, including the fact that the informant wasn't searched before going into the one residence to retrieve the packages. He questioned whether any deals had been made with Johnson regarding drug charges against him. He questioned about the location of the truck, out in the open.
He also questioned whether Walker had been told by anyone about a deal to set up Jackson, specifically by an offender who was supposed to be witness for the defense, but couldn't be located.
The trial was expected to continue this morning with more witnesses for the prosecution.