LIMA — An Allen County jury deliberated for less than an hour Tuesday before finding a Lima man guilty of being a major supplier of cocaine in the city.
Tommie Jefferson Sr., 55, was immediately sentenced to 11 years behind bars for selling nearly 250 grams of coke to a confidential informant who was working for the West Central Ohio Task Force.
The informant, or C.I., took the witness stand Tuesday in the trial’s second day and was a key to the state’s case. The C.I. testified that a controlled drug buy was set up for him to purchase cocaine from Jefferson outside a residence in the 800 block of East Third Street in Lima on Nov. 11, 2015.
He said he returned from the drug buy with twice the amount of coke that had been agreed upon when the transaction was discussed over the telephone and had to return the next day, under the surveillance of police investigators, to pay Jefferson for the additional drugs.
The informant said he had intended to purchase 4.5 grams of cocaine at a cost of $5,500 from Jefferson. Investigator Trent Kunkleman of the Lima Police Department, who was overseeing the transaction, testified the informant inadvertently returned with twice that amount of drugs, which was later determined to be nearly 250 grams of coke. The confidential informant said he returned to Jefferson’s home the next day with another $5,500 to make up for the monetary shortfall.
The informant, who testified he has known Jefferson for a decade or longer and knew him to be a supplier of drugs, appeared in a jail uniform because he is awaiting trial on drugs charges of his own. He admitted under oath that he had also served prison time nearly 20 years ago for drug-related charges.
Defense Attorney Steve Chamberlain, in both his cross-examination of the C.I. and his closing arguments to jurors, attempted to discredit the state’s primary witness.
He told jurors the informant cooperated with police solely to attempt to lessen his own prison sentence.
“The fact that the confidential informant is pointing at my client and saying he is guilty is based 100% on his hope, wish and desire” that police officials will recommend a break when the informant heads to trial, Chamberlain said. “His testimony was unreliable, he’s a convicted felon and he’s trying to worm his way out of an uncomfortable situation.”
The all-white jury, however, took little time in deciding otherwise.
Although the crime for which Jefferson was charged reportedly occurred in November of 2015, the Lima man was not indicted by a grand jury until June 0f 2018. His indictment was part of a two-year investigation by federal, state and local law enforcement officials into what were described at the time as “large-quality” dealers of cocaine and crack cocaine in Lima. That investigation culminated on June 14, 2018, with the arrest of more than a dozen local men on various state and federal drug charges.