Jury Finds Man Not Guilty in Drug Death of Clarion County Man; Guilty on Other Drug Charges

CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Clarion County jurors found a Pittsburgh man not guilty Tuesday evening on drug delivery resulting in death charges.

Jurors deliberated less than three hours before announcing their verdict.

Todd Ellis Carter, 24, is still facing several years in prison after a jury of seven women and five men found him guilty of three felony counts of the manufacture, delivery, or possession with the intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance and two third-degree felony counts of the criminal use of a communication facility.

todd-carter-jr

Carter would have faced 20 to 40 years in state prison if found guilty of the most serious charge of delivering drugs that resulted in death.

President Judge James Arner ordered Carter’s bail revoked, and deputies from the Clarion County Sheriff’s Department returned him to the Clarion County Jail.

Public defender Michael B. Bogush said he felt the jury made the right decision in finding his client not guilty of the most serious charge.

“It’s a mixed verdict, and you have to live with that, but I feel the jury listened carefully and made the right decision,” Bogush said.

Members of Carter’s family were present for the verdict, and they reacted audibly and were thankful he wasn’t found guilty of the most serious charge.

Members of the prosecution team – which included state Attorney General Prosecutor Maureen Sheehan Balcon and arresting officer, PA State Trooper Craddock – declined to comment.

Carter’s sentencing is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, February 7, with Judge Arner presiding.

Carter could face up to 30 years in prison for the three convictions for selling heroin because it is a second conviction. Carter was sentenced to five years probation in 2014 for the same offense in 2012 in Allegheny County.

Carter’s current offenses stemmed from a drug deal in January of 2016.

Joel Tanner Stark, 35, formerly of Rimersburg, a known, 24-year-old New Bethlehem man, and a known, 24-year-old Mayport man traveled to Harmar in Allegheny County where the New Bethlehem man bought heroin from Carter with money he, Stark, and the Mayport man supplied.

The New Bethlehem man then gave heroin to Stark and the Mayport man. Stark died of a heroin overdose a few hours later.

Prosecutor Maureen Sheehan Balchon’s closing argument centered on her hopes that the jurors would use common sense and not ignore the coincidences that she believed pointed to Carter’s guilt.

“Mr. Bogush did his best to defend Mr. Carter, but he’s not entitled to create a fantasy drug dealer and create fantasy morphine pills to distract you,” Sheehan Balcon said.

“(The New Bethlehem man) and (the Mayport man) both admitted they didn’t always remember certain things, but phone call logs compiled by the state police show that (the New Bethlehem man) and Carter were communicating the night of January 14 to arrange a deal for heroin,” Sheehan Balcon said.

Carter’s defense attorney, Michael B. Bogush, began his closing statement by stating that no police were present on January 14, 2016, when the New Bethlehem man bought heroin before giving it to Stark, who died in the early-morning hours of January 15.

“Those two witnesses (the New Bethlehem man and the Mayport man), their word is not credible. My client is not always a Boy Scout, but neither are those two witnesses,” Bogush said.

“We know (the New Bethlehem man) made a delivery to Mr. Stark, but that’s it. (The New Bethlehem man) was giving robotic answers, he barely looked up. I don’t believe he looked at the jury one time. He didn’t even look at Mr. Carter one time while identifying him in court.”

“He had way too many ‘I don’t recall or ‘I don’t remember’ answers,'” Bogush said referring to (the New Bethlehem man).

Bogush criticized the state police investigators for not attempting to get video from the gas station in Harmar from the night of January 14, so it could be determined who (the New Bethlehem man) bought heroin from.

Bogush also was critical of police not searching Stark’s house more thoroughly to determine if other opiate-based pain medications were present that he could have taken that could have resulted in his death.

Previous testimony indicated police had searched Stark’s bedroom, where he died, and only found the heroin he had taken before his death, as well as a number of prescription medications that Stark took to help with a motorcycle injury that cost him his right leg years before.

Bogush began and ended his case with one person – Dr. Barbara Bollinger – testifying.

Bollinger is a forensic pathologist for Forensic Pathology Associates in Allentown. She was accepted an expert witness.

Bollinger analyzed the findings of two expert witnesses who testified Monday – Dr. Eric Vey, the Forensic Pathologist in Erie County, and Dr. Edward Barbieri, a toxicologist and assistant lab director at NMS Lab in Willow Grove, Pa.

While her findings were similar, Bollinger believed Stark’s death was not just due to a heroin overdose, but to an overdose of a mixture of various medications.

Dr. Bollinger and Sheehan Balchon sparred over this assertion.

While Bollinger said she couldn’t be sure if Stark had secreted away morphine-based pain medications that if taken at once, could lead to his death, Sheehan Balchon pointed out that there was no evidence that he had.

Bollinger pointed out that Stark had returned to a pain clinic in Butler on January 7, 2016 – a little more than a week before his death – to try and obtain more pain medicine, but was refused because he had tested positive for taking Ritalin, a drug he didn’t have a prescription for.

But, Sheehan Balcon said Stark’s positive test had occurred on December 1 and had no bearing on what he was doing in January.

Carter also has a pending case in Clarion County in which police say he threatened one of the witnesses who testified Monday in the current case against him.

Additionally, Carter is facing a hearing on Thursday in which Judge Arner will decide if Carter violated his probation from a 2013 case in which Carter pleaded guilty to selling heroin, simple assault, and a robbery conspiracy.

Carter was sentenced to five years probation for the simple assault and two to four years for the guilty pleas.

If Arner finds Carter violated his probation, he will be re-sentenced for the previous crimes.


Copyright © 2021 EYT Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Any copying, redistribution or retransmission of the contents of this service without the express written consent of EYT Media Group, Inc. is expressly prohibited.

Comments are temporarily closed. A new and improved comments section will be added soon.