Drug dealer found guilty; awaits sentence

A drug dealer who operated along High Street was found guilty by jury on all charges Tuesday, despite the only known witness to the deals being unable to recall the events.

Rasheem Johnson, 39, of 267 Campbell St., was found guilty of charges related to selling cocaine in October of 2018.

The plaintiff’s “star witness,” as Timothy Wright, defense counsel, later referred to the confidential informant as, said he did not remember much of last year.

“I haven’t had any sleep in like 36 hours,” said the informant, claiming the sleep deprivation was due to working third shift.

“I don’t remember buying any drugs,” he said. “Not with everything I went through last year.”

A narcotics enforcement detective said Johnson had sold $180 of powder cocaine to a confidential informant on Oct. 11 and Oct. 22, 2018, at the corner of Wildwood Boulevard and High Street, and on Park Street, respectively.

Additionally, a search warrant was fulfilled on Oct. 24, 2018, at Johnson’s residence, 1570 High St., replete with a fully-armed Special Response Team.

“That investigation was set up through (the confidential informant) who knew Johnson as Grey Head, Grey or ‘G,'” he said.

Each controlled buy followed the same structure: the informant and his vehicle were searched, contact with Johnson was made by the informant through the use of a cell phone, the controlled buy took place using pre-recorded money and the drugs were recovered by the detectives. Afterward, another search took place before the informant was released.

“We had the entire area under surveillance,” said the detective. “An exchange occurred, (the informant) had that money in the cup holder of his vehicle, (Johnson) took the money and put the cocaine in the cupholder.”

Following each controlled buy, the detective recorded the audio of the informant describing the events. The audio was played for the jury during the trial.

Once the cocaine, which was later tested by the Wyoming State Crime Laboratory, was received, it was taken to City Hall and placed in the master evidence room to be photographed and weighed, said the detective.

Two more agents with the Lycoming County Narcotics Unit testified to their attendance for the surveillance on the two controlled buys.

Another detective, a newcomer to the unit but with a 25-year history of narcotics investigation with the state police, was also called to the stand. He corroborated the previous detectives’ accounts of the Oct. 11 controlled buy through his testimony and video recording.

Once that detective recognizes Rasheem Johnson at the gas station, the video focuses in on the man.

“He’s in the car with the informant. Target is in the passenger seat with the informant,” he said, in the video, notifying other law enforcement in the area.

Also participating in the later parts of the search warrant, a detective said bags of cocaine were found in a jacket matching one that would fit Johnson.

“Yeah, that’s a lot of cocaine for our area,” he said, holding up a large bag while on the stand, to which one jurist replied, “Wow.”

In total, 49 grams of cocaine were recovered with a street value of about $5,600.

Also found in the search were two digital scales, black rubber bands and powder resembling cocaine but with no trace of the narcotic. Law enforcement later testified those materials were indicative of a drug dealer who would mix the drug with counterfeit substances to make more of a profit.

Upon further questioning by Wright, a detective said it was unlikely someone else lived at the residence, though he couldn’t be sure.

“The building was fairly empty, it didn’t have a lot in it,” he said. Moreover, Johnson’s wallet with photo ID and legal papers were found at the home.

In closing, Wright underlined the need for jurists to understand the role of reasonable doubt as “what would make a reasonable person pause.”

“The only person who may have testified that my client sold a controlled substance to the CI (confidential informant) — he can’t remember,” he said, adding that all the law enforcement officers testified that they could never actually see the controlled buy take place.

Additionally, there were no recordings or phone transcripts of Johnson coordinating the deals, or evidence the pre-recorded money was ever recovered.

“That’s a big crack that you should listen to,” said Wright, using the metaphor of jurists coming forward with a guilty plea to walking on a frozen lake.

“You have an oath and a duty to weigh this — did the commonwealth meet every criteria?” he asked.

Jerry Grill, assistant district attorney, went over the circumstantial evidence pinning Johnson to the crimes and urging the jury to “put it all together.”

In total, Johnson was found guilty of two counts of delivery of cocaine, three counts of possession with intent to distribute cocaine, two counts of possession of cocaine and two counts of criminal use of a communication facility.

Judge Nancy L. Butts, presiding, said Johnson would be allowed to remain on bail, however he would undergo intensive supervision, citing Johnson’s good record of showing up in court.

Johnson’s sentencing is slated for 10 a.m. Dec. 17.