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Drug dealer’s conviction after failed sting operation affirmed

August 9, 2018

A man convicted of dealing heroin and sentenced to 12 years in prison after he cancelled a planned drug buy that law enforcement had set up with the help of a criminal informant lost his appeal Thursday.

Indiana State Police Det. Joshua Allen had worked with a criminal informant to set up a heroin sting in a parking lot near a Steak ‘n Shake restaurant in Martinsville. Allen and the CI spotted an arriving vehicle matching the CI’s description, driven by suspected dealer Jevon R. Bates-Smith and carrying a passenger.

“The detective and CI drove past the vehicle, which held two Black males,” Judge John Baker wrote. “As they drove by, the CI’s cell phone rang; Detective Allen noticed that the driver of the vehicle, later identified as Bates-Smith, was on his cell phone. The incoming call to the CI was from the same number officers had contacted to arrange the controlled buy.

“The CI identified Bates-Smith as the dealer,” Baker continued. “Evidently, Bates-Smith was contacting the CI to cancel the deal.”

Before the planned buy, law enforcement had been asked to stay out of sight but to be ready to arrest Bates-Smith after the purchase. But Bates-Smith instead began to drive away, at which point Allen contacted the other law enforcement units that responded, blocking Bates-Smith’s exit. He and passenger Jeremiah Moore, who attempted to flee on foot but was apprehended, were arrested.

After unsuccessfully attempting to suppress evidence found in his vehicle —25 grams of heroin, a loaded pistol, five cellphones, scales and multiple bags — a Morgan County jury convicted Bates-Smith as charged, finding him guilty of Level 2 felony dealing in a narcotic drug, Level 3 felony possession of a narcotic drug, Level 3 felony dealing in a narcotic drug, and Level 6 felony maintaining a common nuisance. The counts were merged into the Level 2 felony conviction and Bates-Smith was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

On appeal, Bates-Smith argued the traffic stop was unconstitutional and that Allen should not have been permitted to testify based on information he learned from a criminal informant. The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected both arguments in Jevon R. Bates-Smith v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-307.

“When examining the totality of the circumstances surrounding the controlled buy, we find that the CI’s information regarding Bates-Smith had sufficient indicia of reliability to provide the officers with a particularized and objective basis for suspecting legal wrongdoing,” Baker wrote for the panel.  “Therefore, the trial court did not err by admitting the evidence stemming from that stop.

“ … Detective Allen’s testimony that was based on information gained from the CI was offered solely to explain the course of the investigation. The State proved its charges against Bates-Smith based on what happened after the stop; Detective Allen merely offered the prologue to the story. Therefore, the trial court did not err by admitting this testimony,” Baker continued.

“… Because the statements complained of by Bates-Smith were not hearsay, their admission did not violate his rights under the federal Confrontation Clause,” the court concluded.

 

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