Jury convicts Champaign man on heroin charges

Jury convicts Champaign man on heroin charges

URBANA — A Champaign County jury deliberated two hours Thursday before deciding a Champaign man was guilty of both selling heroin and having heroin intended for sale during the summer of 2012.

The guilty verdicts against Jayson Johnson, 39, of the 300 block of South Rising Road, mean that he faces up to 30 years in prison for his convictions for delivery of a controlled substance and possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a park.

Johnson has two other criminal cases pending. One alleges he had heroin for sale less than two weeks after his release on bond in the other case and another involves an alleged aggravated domestic battery. Those have been continued to Oct. 3, the day Judge Heidi Ladd set for sentencing.

Testimony at Johnson's three-day trial is that he sold heroin to an informant working with the Champaign County sheriff's office street crimes unit on July 10, July 12, and July 13, 2012.

The sales of small amounts of the drugs — $20 to $40 worth — occurred at different locations in west Champaign that Johnson and the informant had agreed upon. The informant was wearing a hidden camera and was being watched by drug investigators as he made the purchases. Jurors saw those videotaped transactions.

Armed with the information of the three sales that month, deputies decided to arrest Johnson and had the informant arrange another meeting on July 18, 2012.

Officers testified that Johnson was sitting in his car outside a grocery store in the 300 block of East Stoughton Street reading the paper when they surrounded the car.

Deputy Chris Darr testified he had his gun drawn and told Johnson to show his hands when Johnson made a move toward the car console. For their own safety, the officers reached in the car and pulled Johnson out. On the seat of the car, they found a bag of heroin containing 17 smaller bags of the drug, weighing just over 2 grams.

They also found that Johnson had $1,277, two cell phones and a spring action knife on him.

Darr testified that the informant, who had been arrested for forging relatives' checks to get money to support his heroin use, came to him with information about Johnson in hopes of getting consideration from the state's attorney's office on his criminal cases. He ultimately pleaded guilty to burglary for a sentence of probation.

On the same day Johnson was arrested, officers searched his home on Rising Road. Although they found only residue believed to be heroin, they found four digital scales and six boxes of plastic bags typically used in the packaging of heroin that had been purchased the day before.

Assistant State's Attorney Scott Bennett said all that evidence added up to an overwhelming case that proved Johnson guilty of possessing and selling the drug to the informant. The prosecutor rejected the defense suggestion that Johnson had the heroin for his own use.

"That is a preposterous amount of heroin to have on you for personal use," Bennett said of the 23 doses found in Johnson's car.

But Johnson's attorney, Beau Brindley of Chicago, argued that it was not.

"The idea that it is a massive amount of heroin in ridiculous. It could be used in a couple of days by someone who has a real problem," Brindley told the jury.

Brindley and co-counsel Michael Thompson chose to call no witnesses on Johnson's behalf and Johnson did not testify.

Brindley spent most of his time arguing that the informant was a "liar."

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