Alleged drug dealer seeks to withdraw plea


By J Swygart - jswygart@limanews.com



Leonard Bingham, 51, of Lima, took the witness stand Tuesday in Allen County Common Pleas Court during a motion asking the court to allow him to withdraw previous pleas of no contest to four felony drug and weapons charges. A ruling on the motion is expected later this month.

Leonard Bingham, 51, of Lima, took the witness stand Tuesday in Allen County Common Pleas Court during a motion asking the court to allow him to withdraw previous pleas of no contest to four felony drug and weapons charges. A ruling on the motion is expected later this month.


LIMA — Nearly two hours of testimony was heard in Allen County Common Pleas Court Tuesday morning after a Lima man awaiting sentencing on felony drug and weapons charges filed a motion to withdraw an earlier plea.

Judge Jeffrey Reed took testimony and evidence under advisement and said he will rule on the motion prior to a scheduled Dec. 20 sentencing date.

Leonard Bingham Jr., 51, in late October entered a plea of no contest to a first-degree felony count of possession of cocaine, a second-degree felony charge of the illegal manufacture of drugs (with a specification labeling Bingham as a Major Drug Offender), a third-degree felony count of having a weapon under disability and a fifth-degree felony count of possession of marijuana.

Bingham was indicted by a grand jury in May 2016 and the case has proceeded slowly since that time as attorneys battled over several aspects of an alleged drug buy on the part of a confidential informant on March 31, 2016, and a SWAT team’s execution of a search warrant the following day at a residence at 419 S. Collett St. in Lima. Drugs and guns were found during the raid.

Defense attorney Kenneth Rexford said a primary reason behind Bingham’s motion to withdraw his earlier plea is the sudden availability of what Rexford termed a “material witness” in the case. The attorney said numerous attempts to serve a subpoena to Jeremy Calhoun — who at one time rented the Collett Street residence from Bingham — had proved unsuccessful. Calhoun came to court Tuesday and testified absent a court order to appear.

Bingham alleged during his time on the witness stand that Calhoun was residing at the Collett Street home at the time the search warrant was executed — an allegation Calhoun denied when he took the stand later in the hearing. Bingham’s attorney alleged that the inability to serve as subpoena to Calhoun was a factor in his client’s decision to plead no contest to the charges against him.

Calhoun testified he was in the process of moving out of the Collett Street residence on April 1, 2016, but admitted he had been at that address on the morning the search warrant was executed. Under cross-examination by Assistant Allen County Prosecutor Jana Emerick, Calhoun said he rented the home from Bingham “until around February of 2016.” Asked by Emerick if he had keys to the residence or other access to the home on April 1, 2016, Calhoun said “no.”

The prosecutor questioned the defense’s contention that the residence served as a “home” to anyone. Emerick said the premises appeared to be a “drug house or flop house” that contained a gambling table but little other furniture or accouterments. “There was no furniture; the bathrooms were bare and there were no clothes in the closets,” said Emerick.

“From the beginning of this case it has been the state’s theory that Leonard Bingham is guilty of the offenses and, even if the guns and drugs belong to someone else, he is still complicit,” Emerick concluded.

Rexford argued the no contest plea entered previously by his client was not an admission of guilt that that the availability of a key witness in the case changes Bingham’s approach to trial. He said his client’s motion to withdraw his plea is a “reasonable request.”

Leonard Bingham, 51, of Lima, took the witness stand Tuesday in Allen County Common Pleas Court during a motion asking the court to allow him to withdraw previous pleas of no contest to four felony drug and weapons charges. A ruling on the motion is expected later this month.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2018/12/web1_Leonard-Bingham-...-withdraw-plea-hearing.jpgLeonard Bingham, 51, of Lima, took the witness stand Tuesday in Allen County Common Pleas Court during a motion asking the court to allow him to withdraw previous pleas of no contest to four felony drug and weapons charges. A ruling on the motion is expected later this month.

By J Swygart

jswygart@limanews.com

Reach J Swygart at 567-242-0464.

Reach J Swygart at 567-242-0464.

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