4 charges;
3 verdicts

Verdicts reflect mixed bag for defendant who skipped last day of trial

Wanda English Burnett

After a jury heard testimony and saw evidence they came to the conclusion that a Ripley County man was not guilty on the charge of Manufacturing Methamphetamine, a Class B Felony; but that he was guilty of Conspiracy to Manufacture Methamphetamine, also a Class B Felony. They couldn’t all come to the same conclusion on the two other charges, Neglect of a Dependent and Possession of a Controlled Substance, both Class D Felonies, resulting in a hung jury.

Jason Daugherty, 33, of Versailles, was charged with the above crime in Ripley County Circuit Court, where his trial was held last week.

Although Prosecutor Ric Hertel would have liked to have heard guilty on all charges, he told the Osgood Journal he understood the jurors decisions. “It was certainly a mixed bag,” he said of the four verdicts the jury rendered.

The guilty charge can get the defendant as much time as all four charges put together. He could receive from 6-20 years in prison, which is as much as he could have received, since the charges would have run concurrently.

However, there’s another twist to the trial. Daugherty didn’t show up for the last day of court on Thursday, September 30.

“There’s a warrant out for his arrest,” Prosecutor Hertel noted, saying the Indiana State Police are actively looking for Daugherty.

It’s standard for the defendant to be present when the sentencing is given, so until Daugherty is located, a sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.

The charges stemmed from an arrest made more than two years ago. On May 30, 2008, police responded to a welfare check on a child at 5334 S. County Road 400 W. When they arrived, they found much more than they had bargained for.

First of all, they found Daugherty and another suspect, who were wanted on charges from another county. Daugherty was wanted at that time for a probation violation out of Jennings County.

Then police began to realize there were several items that were consistent with cooking methamhetamine. Sgt. Terry Nickell of the Indiana State Police, who initially responded, testified that there were several burn piles, and many items that were used in cooking meth.

The 29-year veteran of the Indiana State Police, told the jurors that he obtained consent to search the garage where he found altered fittings on a gas tank. That, along with many other items related to cooking meth were found.

The prosecutor told the jurors in opening statement that some of the witnesses also played a role in the illegal activity. They included Jamie Copeland, who has agreed to plead guilty to possession of meth at a hearing scheduled in November. Also, Crystal Durham, has pled guilty to possession of meth and is now on probation.

Defense attorney William (Bill) Dillon from North Vernon, argued that the woman was as guilty as his client, or more so, since he said there were no fingerprints of Daugherty’s on the evidence.

Dillon said Daugherty hadn’t lived at that address for more than a month and who knows how long the burn piles had been there?

Jurors heard part of a letter Daugherty had written saying he’s been learning new ways to cook and when he’s out, he’s going to have a cook-off. Words the prosecutor says are definitely connected to making meth.

Daugherty is a convicted felon on prior drug related charges, has pending charges for Manufacturing Meth in Jennings County, and will face sentencing in Ripley County as soon as he is located, according to the prosecutor.