"The Heroin Bill" (Senate Bill 192) Was Signed Into Law March 25, 2015
|Fort Thomas Police Officer, Brandon Laffin. FTM file.|
The bill, in part, offered multiple tactics to reduce the trafficking and abuse of heroin. Traffickers would face stiffer penalties, particularly if heroin is transported across state lines.
When Fort Thomas Police Officer, Brandon Laffin, pulled over a white 1989 Cadillac Fleetwood in June of 2015, he didn't know that stop would eventually lead to the first prosecution of a defendant charged with Importing Heroin and Trafficking in a Controlled Substance under the new heroin bill.
That bill passed in March of 2015 and the stop in June of that year, led to a historic prosecution this month in Campbell County.
At the time of the stop, Laffin was newly minted on the Fort Thomas police force, only being on his own for five weeks.
He said that Newport Police had invited the Fort Thomas department to conduct an interdiction strategy on I-471 to disrupt the supply on drugs that travels along that route.
Donald Redd, 28, from Cincinnati, Ohio was pulled over at 8:00 p.m. traveling southbound on I-471 on June 8 of last year. Newport Officer Chris Gallichio spotted Redd driving erratically and Laffin was first on the scene to stop him.
He found that Redd, from Cincinnati, had an active warrant and was arrested on the scene.
|Donald Redd. Campbell County Detention Center.|
Laffin said that Redd would later admit that he was on his way to sell it and was only two blocks away from reaching his destination. He also went on to say that Redd bought the drugs in Evanston strictly for the purpose of distributing it.
Redd was originally charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance and Failure to Signal.
It wasn't until Laffin talked to Campbell County Assistant Commonwealth Attorney, Kyle Burns, that he realized the evidence could become a landmark case in Campbell County. With Redd coming across state lines with the sole intent to sell the drugs, Burns knew that Senate Bill 192 gave him the legal "teeth" to be able to prosecute with fervor.
And so, Burns and his co-worker, Michael Zimmerman, tried the first "Importing Heroin" case to reach a Campbell County jury since Senate Bill 192 was signed. The jury heard deliberations on February 8 and 9 in Judge Julie Reinhardt Ward's courtroom in Campbell County.
"It's no secret to anyone just how serious the heroin epidemic has become for the state of Kentucky. We are, in essence, at war with an unprecedented wave of drug addiction due to what a tragically unique substance heroin is," said Burns. "In Northern Kentucky, we are on the very front lines of that "war" due to our proximity to one of the most thriving supply centers in the nation: Cincinnati."
The jury returned a verdict of 10 years to be served consecutively for two charge of Importing Heroin Charge and the Trafficking in a Controlled Substance in the First Degree charge.
Despite the fact that the Redd only had misdemeanors in his criminal history, the jury opted against a minimum sentence. Instead, they recommended seven years in prison on the Importing charge and three on the trafficking charge.
Redd could have received a maximum of 15 years.
"The facts were precisely what the law is intended to punish: an individual looking for, in his own words, 'fast money' who was subsequently stopped on Grand Avenue with heroin that he had brought from Cincinnati to sell here," said Burns. "Personally and professionally, what I was most pleased with was that the jury recommended that the sentences run consecutively for a total of 10 years. What do your fellow citizens think of dealers bringing this absolutely deadly drug to your backyard for their own profit? If you look at that sentencing recommendation, I think you have your answer: not here."
"We've been watching this trial because it was the first one tried since the new heroin law was passed and we didn't know what the jury pool in Campbell County would ultimately say," said Lt. Rich Whitford, of the Fort Thomas Police. "Everyone knows someone who's been affected by heroin, so this was going to be a tester case and it was pretty clear that they and the public said 'enough is enough.'"
Whitford said that Laffin's work helped clear a path for law enforcement to enforce tougher penalties on traffickers in the future.
"This would have been a stressful situation for a senior officer, but for a younger guy, with the time he's had on the force, he did a great job in the field and in the courtroom," he said.
Admittedly nervous in testifying for such a big case, Laffin said the Campbell County prosecutors helped put him at ease and demonstrated a steely confidence that would ultimately send traffickers who intend to come to Northern Kentucky a strong indicator of how they will be treated.
"I think the conviction shows what the public thinks about drugs coming into our community and people bringing it in from Ohio," said Laffin. "This sends a strong message to others."
Burns, who also praised the work of officers Laffin, Gallichio and Bax for physically taking heroin off the streets on a daily basis also had some high praise for Northern Kentucky legislators for helping to pass Senate Bill 192, "The Heroin Bill."
"As citizens, we are often told to contact our legislators to let our voices be heard in the context of complaints. This week, I would encourage Kentuckians, especially those in the Northern Kentucky area, to contact their legislators for a more positive reason: praise for the new heroin laws that went into effect last spring," he said. "The fight against heroin in this region is far from over. The Importing Heroin statute was an attempt by our legislature to help us fight back and, just last week, that is exactly what twelve men and women from Campbell County did. Together, as law enforcement and citizens, we will continue that fight - one day at a time, one case at a time, one sentence at a time- and send the same message: keep your heroin out of our community."
Donald Redd is set for final sentencing on March 9 at noon.