Champaign man acquitted of selling heroin to police informant

Champaign man acquitted of selling heroin to police informant

URBANA — A Champaign County jury Thursday took less than three hours to acquit a Champaign man accused of selling heroin to a police informant.

Jamonte Hill, 23, of the 2500 block of Campbell Drive was charged in August with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance alleging that on June 21, he sold 0.3 grams of heroin to a source working with the Champaign County Street Crimes Task Force.

Testimomy in the trial before Judge Roger Webber was that the sale took place in the 2000 block of West John Street, near where the informant was working at the time.

A "struggling" opioid addict, the informant testified he worked with the task force for about two years, taking part in 14 drug buys for which he was paid. He then handed over the drugs and information on the alleged sellers to police.

He gave two reasons for the work. He wanted leniency in two Champaign County retail theft cases against him, which were ultimately dismissed. The other, he said, was: "I don't like drug dealers."

The informant said he arranged for Hill to come to him in a car. He gave Hill $60 that the police had given him to buy drugs. After getting the substance that he said Hill handed him, he then gave it to police who were hidden nearby. The substance turned out to be 0.3 grams of heroin, testimony showed.

Despite the small amount, Hill's charge was a Class X felony because of prior drug-related convictions he had in 2012 and 2013. Had he been convicted, he faced six to 30 years in prison.

Jurors viewed about 40 minutes of undercover video that was choppy and very unclear because of the placement of the hidden camera on the informant. When the video finally arrived at the seconds-long transaction — the informant said Hill asked to see his phone before handing him the heroin from the back seat of a car — the actual handing over of the heroin could not be seen.

Hill was prosecuted by Assistant State's Attorney Troy Lozar. Assistant Public Defender Jamie Propps defended him.

Street crimes detectives had been investigating alleged drug sales by Hill in April, May and June. He was released from prison in December after serving time on a conviction for possession of a weapon by a felon and possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance.

He was released from jail Thursday afternoon.

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Joe American wrote on October 19, 2017 at 4:10 pm

This should have been a slam dunk case, but now another enabler has been release to help feed our opiod epidemic.

rsp wrote on October 19, 2017 at 9:10 pm

When the video finally arrived at the seconds-long transaction — the informant said Hill asked to see his phone before handing him the heroin from the back seat of a car — the actual handing over of the heroin could not be seen.

After long discussion I imagine they couldn't decide that he was handed the drug and not just the phone. That's an issue with using paid informants and people who have something to gain. And you can't train them for contingencies, and to think about how things will look in court.