|Drug investigation led to officer’s arrest
April 2, 2011
|WARREN – A narcotics officer who testified this week in an ongoing trial of two accused drug dealers developed additional information that led agents to the arrest of a police officer from another department.
Detective Fred Raines, the agent with the Trumbull-Ashtabula Group Law Enforcement Task Force, was taking criticism from defense attorneys for Fred Johnson and Brandi Lynn Watson for never recording or writing down what he described as certain admissions Watson made after her arrest Jan. 16, 2010.
Attorney Mark Lavelle is representing Johnson, and Jeff Limbian is representing Watson.
Raines said Watson clearly placed herself in a car with Johnson and wound up in a high-speed chase when drugs and a gun were thrown from the vehicle. She also was heard on telephone calls from the Trumbull County Jail to her brother admitting her and Johnson’s involvement with picking up 4.5 ounces of cocaine and 400 grams of heroin in Detroit to sell in Warren – the same amount TAG agents and Warren police officers recovered after it was thrown from the car.
But Watson, 27, also told Raines that she and Johnson, 40, already knew that agents were watching them since one of their friends, Ryan Freeman, who was a part-time Braceville police officer and a Mahoning County Jail corrections officer, gained access to a special statewide law enforcement computer network.
Another TAG agent, Rick Tackett, explained to jurors in the courtroom of Judge Peter Kontos that he audited the computer trail to find out that Freeman had linked Tackett and Warren Detective Melanie Gambill, who works for TAG, as searching the site on the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway, for the two suspected drug dealers.
The agents browsed the site, set up by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, and Freeman was able to learn who called up the information on his two friends. After that Tacket was able to find that Freeman had been on the site on behalf of his friends.
Agents raided Freeman’s home and confiscated his computer.
Freeman, 30, of Front Street, was indicted and eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of unauthorized use of a computer, both fifth-degree felonies. He was placed on five years’ probation and lost his law enforcement jobs last October.
Johnson and Watson are facing first- and second-degree felony charges of heroin and cocaine possession and the potential of an enhanced penalty as ”major drug offenders.” Johnson is being held in lieu of bond; Watson, a mother of four, remains free on bond.
The trial is on hold until Thursday after earlier testimony for a federal agent was cut short.
Matthew Harrell, a federal agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who was with Raines and corroborating his account of the admissions by Watson, will take the stand again next week.
Harrell confirmed Raines’ version of the early morning interview and was about to be cross-examined by the two defense attorneys when Kontos excused the jury to hear other arguments that included the defense lawyers’ request to have a copy of any report Harrell turned in on the incident.
An official request has to be made to the federal government for the report and an answer to the request could take until next week, when Harrell may finish his testimony.