Judges: Man didn’t sell enough meth to merit conviction

GREENFIELD — The Indiana Supreme Court has overturned a jury’s conviction of a local drug dealer, saying the man didn’t sell enough methamphetamine to support a Level 4 felony conviction.

The defendant — Christopher Beaty, 30, of Greenfield — remains guilty of dealing meth, the judges say; but prosecutors didn’t have sufficient evidence for a Level 4 felony, which carries a penalty to two to 12 years.

Such a conviction would have required the man to be caught dealing at least 1 gram of methamphetamine — but the state’s highest court ruled the drug’s weight was not recorded during the investigation and wasn’t proven in court.

The highest Beaty can be legally sentenced to, therefore, is a Level 5 felony — which carries one to six years.

A jury of Hancock County residents — after fewer than 15 minutes of deliberating — found Beaty guilty of one Level 4 felony count of dealing methamphetamine, one Level 6 felony count of possession of methamphetamine and one Class B misdemeanor of visiting a common nuisance.

Beaty had been sentenced to serve 10 years in prison; Supreme Court judges have called for the man to be re-sentenced on the new conviction.

During the single-day trial, prosecutors told the jury Beaty and a friend drove to Indianapolis in January 2017 to buy meth, according to court documents. Beaty split the drugs in half, giving some to the friend in exchange for $100, court documents state.

Then, the pair visited a home on Mount Street in Greenfield so that Beaty could weigh the meth he had kept for himself, according to court documents.

Greenfield Police Department officers served a search warrant on the home while Beaty was inside, arresting him and several others.

Inside the home, officers found various drug paraphernalia and notebooks that appeared to have records of drug sales, court documents state.

Police weighed the crystal of meth Beaty had when he was arrested. It measured at 1.01 grams, records show.

But if officers weighed the drugs Beaty sold his friend, that evidence was never presented at trial, the Supreme Court judges point out in their decision. And the amount of that sale is the difference between a Level 4 felony — at least 1 gram — and a Level 5.

Prosecutors relied only on testimony that Beaty and his friend had agreed to exchange 1 gram of meth for $100, according to the Supreme Court decision.

When drugs haven’t been sufficiently weighed prior to trial, state law allows for “those who regularly use or deal in the substance … to assess the weight of the drugs in which they deal,” court documents state.

But Beaty’s claim he needed to weigh the crystal of meth he kept for himself proves he didn’t know enough about drugs to accurately guess, the decision states.

“There is no evidence as to the methamphetamine rock’s weight prior to Beaty splitting it, … and there is absolutely nothing in the record to support a finding that Beaty so precisely split the rock in half that the portion delivered to (his friend) was identical in weight to the 1.01 grams retained by Beaty,” the decision states.

Prosecutor Brent Eaton said he respected the Supreme Court’s decision but declined to comment further on the case.

Beaty will be brought back to Hancock County (he’s currently being held in the Putnamville Correctional Facility) to receive a new sentence. A hearing has been set for March 15.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.