SIDNEY – A Shelby County Common Pleas Court jury found Brandon P. Whitt, 36, of Sidney, guilty on one count of possession of drugs, a fifth degree felony, for possession of a single pill of Alprazolam, after a one day trial on Tuesday, April 11.
Whitt was indicted for one count of possession of drugs for knowingly obtaining, possessing, or using a controlled substance, Alprazolam, a schedule IV controlled substance, having previously been convicted of a drug abuse offense in Miami County in 2015.
On Nov. 10, 2022, law enforcement was called to the home of Paul and Bethel Carnes, where Whitt was acting out of control, hitting the walls and furniture with a machete, and shouting that he was hearing voices coming out of the walls. Whitt was arrested that night by Deputy Brad Boyd of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, who was first on the scene and witnessed Whitt’s erratic behavior.
The prosecution’s case relied on “just the facts” as prosecuting attorney Heath Hegemann stated in both opening and closing statements. Hegemann called six witnesses: Whitt’s grandmother, the first law enforcement officer to arrive on the scene, a second officer involved in the case, a forensic scientist with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations (BCI), and the Clerk of Courts from both Miami and Shelby Counties.
Whitt’s grandmother, Carnes, was the first to testify. She testified Whitt was “upset and carrying on” and he was yelling about voices in the walls when Boyd arrived. She also testified Whitt was bipolar and suffered from anxiety.
Boyd was next to testify. He stated he was dispatched to Carnes’ home after being advised that Whitt was inside the house freaking out and waving a machete. This was a high priority call because Whitt was a danger to himself and others. Once Boyd was on the scene, based on his training, he determined that Whitt’s erratic behavior was from being under the influence, and he handcuffed Whitt for everyone’s safety. Boyd asked Whitt if he had anything sharp in his pockets, and Whitt stated he had a razor in his wallet. Whitt was patted down and his wallet was removed from his back pocket and placed in an evidence bag on the floorboard of the passenger seat in Boyd’s police cruiser.
Body camera evidence was provided showing Boyd’s arrival at the house. It also showed that Whitt did put the machete down and did not resist arrest. Additionally the body cam captured Boyd removing Whitt’s wallet.
Boyd arrested Whitt for disorderly conduct and transported him to the Shelby County Jail. Based on Boyd’s training he believed that Whitt was under the influence of illicit drugs.
Boyd turned off his body camera when he drove to jail where Boyd turned Whitt over to the jail staff for processing. It was at this point that Boyd looked into the wallet he had removed from Whitt’s back pocket. While in the sallyport of the jail, he examined the wallet and a small, orange, oval pill fell out. This was also witnessed by Deputy Austin Knight, who testified later. This was not on the body camera since Boyd turned it off for the drive to the jail, but Boyd stated the sallyport at the jail has a camera which would have been recording. However, the sallyport video was not introduced into evidence.
Using a pill identifier, the pill that fell out of Whitt’s wallet was identified as Alprazolam, 0.5 mg. Boyd turned on his body camera and asked Whitt if he was on any prescription medications, and Whitt said he was not.
At this point the pill was sealed into evidence and sent off the BCI, where it was confirmed to be Alprazolam.
Defense attorney Laura Waymire asked Boyd if the behavior he witnessed could be a mental health issue rather than drugs, and Boyd agreed that it was possible.
The next witness to testify was Knight, who was third on the scene. He observed Boyd examining the wallet at the sallyport and saw the pill fall out of the wallet onto the ground in front of the cruiser, but was not there when Boyd asked Whitt if he was on any prescription medications. Waymire asked Knight if he had body cam evidence for this encounter and Knight said he did not, his body cam was being charged during this call.
Sarah Mikell, from BCI, was the next witness called. She was the forensic scientist who tested the pill and determined that it was indeed Alprazolam.
Next, Hegemann called Shawn Peeples, Clerk of Courts for Miami County, in order to confirm that Whitt had a previous drug conviction. This was important to his case since part of the charge was possession after a previous drug charge. Peeples had records which confirmed that in 2015 Whitt pleaded guilty to possession of heroin.
The final witness called was Michele Mumford, the Clerk of Courts for Shelby County. Her testimony confirmed documents that proved Whitt was indeed the person in the Miami County case.
At this point the state rested their case. Waymire stated Whitt did not wish to testify on his behalf, and she had no additional witnesses, so the defense rested its case as well.
Both attorneys gave their closing arguments at this time. Hegemann reiterated the facts that the witnesses provided during their testimony. Waymire stated Whitt was bipolar and that his erratic behavior witnessed by the police could have been due to a mental health crisis rather than being under the influence of drugs. She also pointed out that the prosecution did not show any video evidence of the pill falling out of Whitt’s wallet, even though they say they have it. Finally, she stated that during the pat down Whitt informed Boyd that he had a razor in his wallet, and this showed that Whitt felt he had nothing to hide.
Hegemann closed with this question to the jurors – all they had to decide was if Whitt knowingly had one Alprazolam tablet in his wallet. He also stated the jurors did not have to see everything on video in order to believe it occurred.
The judge reminded the jury that they must be firmly convinced of the truth, and that any decision must be unanimous. He reminded them that Whitt had a constitutional right to not testify and that the decision must be based on whether Whitt was knowingly in possession of the schedule IV controlled substance. The jury was to determine if the state “proved or failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” their case.
The jury deliberated for around 80 minutes, then returned with a verdict that they found Whitt guilty. The case now moves to a pre-sentencing investigation.