BELMONT COUNTY, OHIO (WTRF) Today, a jury verdict was returned in the Belmont County Court of Common Pleas against Benjamin Charles Cutlip, 42, for both trafficking and possession of a large quantity of methamphetamine.
The verdict marks the biggest drug conviction in Belmont County history, to date. The trial, which began last week, was in front of Judge John Vavra. The jury heard evidence of an undercover drug transaction and raid on July 9, 2020 on a trailer in possession of Cutlip.
Belmont County Prosecutor Kevin Flanagan said that the evidence at trial showed that Cutlip stockpiled over 400 grams of crystal methamphetamine to distribute throughout the area.
Flanagan added that officers from the St. Clairsville Police Department worked in conjunction with deputies from the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department to gather enough evidence to secure a search warrant. That warrant netted approximately 427 grams of methamphetamine and $3,700 in cash. Flanagan noted that a bust like this is significant because it seriously affects the amount of this particular drug coming through the Ohio Valley.
The prosecutor noted that the cooperation between the two law enforcement agencies was the only reason this operation was successful. Flanagan commented that he was proud of the work that both departments did on the case. “All of the officers worked long hours not only investigating the case but in preparation for trial,” said Flanagan. He added that a case like this requires extensive time and effort both before and after an arrest. Flanagan said that preparation of such a large case to present to a jury is crucial to achieving a conviction and the investigating officers went over and above what was necessary to assist with that preparation.
Flanagan said that the prosecutor’s office included a specification in the indictment asking that Cutlip be deemed a Major Drug Offender under Ohio law.
Ultimately, with Cutlip’s conviction, this paved the way for Judge Vavra to make such a finding after the jury verdict, and he did, according to Flanagan. This means that in addition to the significant criminal penalties for today’s guilty verdicts, Judge Vavra can impose an enhanced penalty greater than the normal sentence.
Flanagan said that his office will make arguments for the enhanced sentence at the time of sentencing which is scheduled for June 14, 2021.
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