Following bust in Ohio
By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
A pair of Carbondale men were arrested on Jan. 13 in Ohio and currently are facing stiff penalties over charges of marijuana possession, and possibly marijuana possession with intent to distribute, after police reportedly found 123 pounds of marijuana in their vehicle during a traffic stop.
But as of Tuesday, the cases against the two men seemed to be suspended in a kind of legal “limbo” between two different levels of Ohio’s court system, according to one official.
Kelly Lance Harding, 47, and Craig Andrews Voigt, 46, both of Carbondale, reportedly were driving east along I-70 through Ohio when they were stopped by the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) about 25 miles west of Columbus, allegedly for following too close to another vehicle.
The troopers who stopped the 2014 Subaru station wagon driven by Harding, according to a press release by the OSHP, said that undisclosed “criminal indicators” were observed involving the two men, and that a drug-sniffing dog detected the presence of drugs in the vehicle.
A subsequent search allegedly turned up the 123 pounds of pot, which police say was worth more than $600,000.
According to news and online reports, the two men face up to 16 years in prison and a fine of up to $30,000 if convicted of the charges against them.
Both men currently are being held in the Tri-County Jail facility in Mechanicsburg, Ohio, while awaiting a hearing by the local grand jury, which is the agency that will issue any formal charges against the two, according to officials with the Madison County Common Pleas court.
According to conversations with court clerks and police officials, the two initially were arrested under the jurisdiction of the municipal judicial services, were jailed in that capacity, and were arraigned by the local municipal court.
But on Jan. 22, according to a clerk with the municipal courts, the case was transferred to the Common Pleas court, a step up in court procedures that deals with charges of a more serious nature, such as felonies.
Currently, according to the Tri-County Jail’s website, the two are charged solely with possession of marijuana, and are being held in lieu of payment of a $50,000 bond.
A check with both levels of the court system revealed, however, that neither the municipal system nor the Common Pleas clerk’s office could locate the files concerning the two cases.
“It’s really just kind of sitting in limbo right now,” said one clerk for the Common Pleas office, who added that because the two men had not yet been “indicted” by the grand jury, their files were not a matter of public record.
A call to the local prosecutor handling the two cases, Nicholas Adkins, was not returned as of press time.
The case involving the two men has attracted the interest of at least one marijuana-legalization advocacy group. POW420.com, which apparently combs the Internet for cases such as the one involving Harding and Voigt, maintains a database of defendants arrested and charged with marijuana-related offenses, as well as a news organ, “The Prohibition Times,” that is sent to more than 300 inmates accused of non-violent, marijuana-related crimes.
“Horribly,” the website declares, “both men are facing up to 16 years in prison and a $30,000 fine. Sixteen years for a plant? No one belongs in jail for a plant.”
The website reports that the two men are charged with possession of marijuana as well as with “trafficking marijuana,” although the second charge could not be confirmed by telephone with the Ohio agencies involved.
One court clerk, after first insisting that the date of the grand jury hearing concerning Harding and Voigt was not a matter of public record, relented and said that the next hearing of the grand jury will occur on Feb. 10.
Published in The Sopris Sun on February 4, 2016.