By Margie Wuebker
A Montezuma man -- one of five adults charged in connection with an undercover drug investigation at Celina High School -- stood with his head bowed Friday morning as Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Ingraham gave him the opportunity to start making good decisions and avoid a prison stay.
T.J. Thitoff, 18, 6888 state Route 219, was sentenced to community control sanctions, including 120 days in the Mercer County Jail, up to three years supervision and a mandatory six-month operator's license suspension.
Ingraham ordered 30 days to be be served immediately followed by 30 days electronic house arrest. The remaining 90 days would be served upon the notice of Thitoff's probation officer. This is typically done in the event of violations to the clearly defined sanctions.
"In some respect the court believes it is taking a chance by placing you on community control sanctions," Ingraham told the young man who pleaded guilty June 4 to two counts of trafficking in drugs, both fourth-degree felonies. "Right now I'm not sure the probation officer can trust what you say given your past difficulties."
Among those difficulties were violating the terms of his recognizance bond by drinking four or five times, testing positive for marijuana use and missing two scheduled appointments for presentence investigation interviews. The latter development led to a delay in sentencing originally set for July 9. Thitoff, who has found employment as a groundsman with a landscape company, will participate in the jail's work release program, allowing him to maintain his current job. The judge also ordered counseling at the Gateway Outreach Center and a psychological evaluation.
"This will give you an opportunity to grow up and start making the right decisions," he added as Thitoff nodded in agreement. "If you violate community control sanctions, you will go to prison."
Ingraham listened earlier as defense attorney William Kluge of Lima described his client as one of the "lost children" bombarded with so many influences the older generation never encountered.
"Today, they are exposed to everything at an early age," the attorney said. "There are a lot of kids drifting along who don't know what to do. It is not a parental fault; it is a societal fault."
Kluge requested CCS, adding it would give Thitoff an opportunity "to get straightened out and turn his life around."
Nine juveniles and five adults were arrested in connection with the undercover investigation. All the juvenile cases have been completed 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 had to complete Opportunity Summer School at their own cost in order to be readmitted for the 2004-2005 school year.
Adults still involved in court proceedings include Mike Wilson, 18, 45 W. Main St., Montezuma; Dustin Wendel, 18, 425 Johnson Ave., Celina; and Steve Kable, 28, 322 W. Fayette St., Celina.