By Margie Wuebker
A Celina man faces up to three years of community control sanctions following a Friday morning appearance in Mercer County Common Pleas Court.
Brandon Barker,18, 1805 E. Livingston St., was one of five adults charged in connection with a six-month undercover drug operation at Celina High School. Nine juveniles also were arrested April 12 on warrants stemming from the same investigation.
He pleaded guilty April 27 to one count of trafficking in drug (the prescription medication hydrocodone, a fifth-degree felony. The original charge -- a fourth-degree felony -- was reduced through plea negotiations.
Barker, a senior at the time of the offense, received his diploma Monday, according to defense attorney Dan Myers. One credit shy of meeting graduation requirements, he was permitted to walk with his class at commencement in keeping with established board of education policy.
"It is an evil," Myers said in regard to the trafficking charge. "However, it is not related to continuing drug activity. The offense involved a one-time sale of pills for $10." Barker reportedly heard a student was looking for pills and the $10 would be pocket money. That student turned out to be a 23-year-old undercover agent posing as a 17-year-old high school junior.
"It was a stupid mistake," Myers added. "Brandon has to learn there are repercussions to any course taken and learn to bail out."
Barker took advantage of an opportunity to address the court. "I would like to apologize. I hurt my family and my dad (Celina Police officer John Barker) most of all. I need to change my ways because I can't be in anymore trouble.
Judge Jeffrey Ingraham listed prior adjudication of delinquency and a history of criminal convictions as sentencing factors in the short time since the defendant reached adulthood.
Residential terms of CCS include up to 90 days in the Mercer County Jail upon notice from his probation officer and immediate house arrest through Aug. 31. Listed among the other sanctions were up to three years supervision, drug/alcohol counseling at Gateway Outreach Center, a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily curfew and a six-month operator's license suspension.
Ingraham warned the defendant failure to comply with sanctions could result in a 10-month prison sentence.
"I hope you seriously avail yourself to counseling," the judge said with a stern look. "I do not want to be faced with incarcerating you in jail or prison."
Special prosecutor Martin Burchfield of Van Wert County handled the case for the state.
Nine juveniles have completed proceedings in Mercer County Juvenile Court, where sentences included detention for all as well as suspended commitments to the Department of Youth Services for those with multiple charges. The youths, who were expelled, must complete makeup work during Opportunity Summer School in order to readmitted to the high school in the fall. They or their families are paying the cost at the rate of $132 per semester credit.
Other adults still involved in court proceedings are Mike Wilson, 18, 45 W. Main St., Montezuma; T.J. Thitoff, 18, 6688 Ohio 219, Montezuma; Dustin Wendel, 18, 425 Johnson Ave., Celina; and Steve Kable, 28, 322 W. Fayette St., Celina.
The undercover operation was a collaborative effort between the Mercer County Sheriff's Office and the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office.