There’s jail time for jury trial’s tardy defendant
By Jane Beathard
He was stuck in traffic — or so he said.
Regardless, Naresh LeFranc Anderson was jailed on Tuesday after showing up 75 minutes late for his jury trial in Madison County Common Pleas Court.
Anderson, 24, now living in Columbus, is charged with being the “middle man” in a marijuana smuggling operation based in Arizona.
The Jamaican native was arrested on April 19, 2012, after Madison County Sheriff’s deputies and agents for the U.S. Postal Service confiscated a 15-pound bundle of marijuana from a Mt. Sterling apartment where Anderson was living at the time.
Anderson posted a $5,000 surety bond in June and was released on house arrest.
A jury trial on the marijuana possession charge was set for 9 a.m. Tuesday. But Anderson called the court to say he was running late.
By 10 a.m., Judge Robert D. Nichols was out of patience.
“He purports to be stuck on I-270 near I-71 (east) in Columbus,” Nichols told prospective jurors. “He’s at least another hour out.”
The prosecutor’s office checked with the Ohio State Highway Patrol and found no traffic jams on Columbus’ east side.
Defense attorney Brian Meunchenbach admitted further delays might prejudice a jury against his client. At that point, Nichols dismissed the 30 or so prospective jurors, saying it was unfair to keep them waiting.
Within 10 minutes, Anderson appeared at the courthouse and was taken into custody by deputies. Nichols ordered the man held in Tri-County Regional Jail, pending a new trial date.
It was the latest twist in a case that began last April when postal agents using drug-sniffing dogs detected a suspicious package in the main Columbus post office on Twin Rivers Drive. The package was on its way from Arizona to 10900 Schadel Lane, Apt. 23, in Mt. Sterling. Those agents contacted local authorities, who obtained a search warrant for the apartment.
Once the package was delivered by an undercover postal agent, deputies entered the apartment. They found Anderson at home and the bundle of pot hidden in a bedroom. Anderson said he did not know the package contained marijuana and that he simply accepted it on behalf of a cousin.
Lt. Eric Semler of the sheriff’s investigative unit disputed Anderson’s account, saying the package was likely earmarked for delivery to a Columbus drug dealer.
In September, Muenchenbach lost a pre-trial argument that Semler’s search of the apartment was illegal and that Anderson, who speaks both Creole and English, did not understand the consequences of waiving his “Miranda” rights against self-incrimination.
Last week, Nichols denied Muenchenbach’s request to withdraw from the case.