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Silvers v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

December 7, 2018

Jacob Lee Silvers, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

          Appeal from the Cass Superior Court The Honorable James K. Muehlhausen, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 09D01-1711-F6-433

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Mark K. Leeman Leeman Law Office Logansport, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Ian McLean Supervising Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana


         Case Summary

         [¶1] Jacob Lee Silvers was convicted of several drug-related crimes. He now appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in denying his motion to continue the trial and that the evidence is insufficient to support two of his convictions. The State concedes that the evidence is insufficient to support one of the convictions. Although we reverse that conviction and remand for resentencing, we affirm the trial court on the other issues.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] In October 2017, Silvers and Rachelle Gerhart were romantically involved and regularly used drugs together, including heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana. On October 31, Rachelle, driving her silver Pontiac Grand Am, and Silvers picked up Dustin Ecklebeck, and the trio drove to Kokomo to purchase heroin from Dustin's dealer. After purchasing the heroin, Rachelle and Silvers dropped off Dustin at his house. As they dropped him off, Silvers's mother, Michelle (who was staying at Dustin's house), ran out of the house yelling at them not to leave her because her boyfriend (Scott Powers) had just called the police. Tr. Vol. II p. 193. Silvers ordered Rachelle, who was preparing a needle to inject herself with heroin, to drive away without his mother; however, he changed his mind and told Rachelle to wait on her. When Michelle got in the car, she was "frantic." Id.

         [¶3] At about the same time, Cass County Sheriff's Deputy Scott Turney received a dispatch to be on the lookout for a silver Pontiac Grand Am. Shortly thereafter, Deputy Turney passed a silver Pontiac Grand Am. As he passed the car, the three occupants-two females and one male-all stared at him, which was unusual. When Rachelle, Silvers, and Michelle saw the brake lights on the police car illuminate, Silvers and Michelle ordered Rachelle to "hurry up and go." Id. at 194. Deputy Turney radioed another officer in the area, Detective Thomas Heflin, that the Grand Am had just passed him and that he was going to turn around to catch up to it. Detective Heflin positioned himself to intercept the car and waited. Soon thereafter, Detective Heflin observed the Grand Am abruptly pull into a Quonset hut (a semi-circle building made of sheet metal, commonly used during World War II). Detective Heflin pulled in behind the car and activated his emergency lights. Silvers exited the front passenger-side door and fled on foot but was soon apprehended.

         [¶4] The Grand Am was searched, and numerous items were found, including a burnt marijuana cigarette in the front passenger-side door and a blue plastic straw with white residue in the center console (Exhibit 5). Officers also found a Ziploc bag containing brown residue (Exhibit 12) and a spoon (Exhibit 8) in Rachelle's purse as well as a rock of heroin on her person (Exhibit 6). It was later determined that Exhibit 5 contained heroin, Exhibit 6 contained heroin and cocaine, and Exhibit 12 contained heroin. Ex. 18 (lab results).

         [¶5] The State ultimately charged Silvers with Count 1: Level 6 felony possession of cocaine (for the heroin that also contained cocaine, Exhibit 6), Count 2: Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement, Count 3: Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana, Count 4: Class B misdemeanor visiting a common nuisance, Count 5: Class C misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia (straw or spoon), and Count 6: Level 6 felony possession of a narcotic drug (heroin).

         [¶6] Silvers was in the Cass County Jail while awaiting trial. On the morning of March 5, 2018, the day before the jury trial was set to begin, the Cass County jail commander gave the deputy prosecutor an updated recording of Silvers's jail calls on CD. When the deputy prosecutor began listening to the calls, he recognized defense counsel's voice. The deputy prosecutor turned off the recording and went to the Cass County Prosecutor. After consulting the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, the State requested a hearing, which was held later that day. During the hearing, the deputy prosecutor told the trial court that when he started listening to the first call on the CD, he recognized defense counsel's voice "within a few seconds." Tr. Vol. II p. 5. He then "immediately" stopped the recording and moved on to the second call. He listened to a "few seconds" of that call and again recognized defense counsel's voice. Id. He then stopped the recording. The deputy prosecutor told the trial court that he heard "nothing of substance relating to the case" and that he wanted to give the CD, which was the only copy that he was aware of, to the trial court for safekeeping. Id. The trial court told the parties that since it had heard nothing that appeared to affect the trial, the matter would be more fully addressed at trial the next day. Later that night, Silvers filed a motion to dismiss the charges based on the State's "outrageous conduct" in recording protected attorney-client conversations. Appellant's App. Vol. II p. 86.

         [¶7] The next day, the parties met for a continued hearing as well as for a hearing on Silvers's motion to dismiss. In addition, Silvers orally requested a continuance so that he could depose the jail commander, "anybody else at the jail that's listening to these conversations," and "everyone at the prosecutor's office who may have listened to this." Tr. Vol. II p. 15. The State then presented evidence of how conversations are recorded in the Cass County Jail. First, an inmate can place a phone call in the cell pod; these phone calls are recorded (unless the phone call is to an attorney who has asked the jail to have his/her phone number blocked from recording). Second, there is a public visitation room, where visitors can see the inmates through plexiglass and talk to them using a phone; these calls, which are set up for ten minutes, are audio recorded. Last, there is an attorney meeting room where attorneys can privately meet with their clients; these conversations are not audio recorded.

         [¶8] Regarding the specifics of this case, the jail commander testified under oath that on the morning of Monday, March 5, he "pulled" Silvers's calls from Friday through the weekend and gave them to the deputy prosecutor. Id. at 32. He verified that the CD was not blank by clicking on the first file. As soon as he heard the advisement that the call may be recorded, he stopped the CD and did not listen to any more. Id. at 33, 38. He did not listen to any of the substance of the calls. Id. at 39. The assistant jail commander-the only other person with access to the system that records the calls-testified under oath that in helping the prosecutor's office figure out in this case the wording of the advisements for each type of call, he listened to the CD up to the point where the advisement started and then "hit stop." Id. at 53. He also did not listen to any of the substance of the calls. Id. Defense counsel cross-examined both witnesses. In addition, the State admitted an affidavit from the deputy prosecutor, who said that he "did not hear anything substantively about the case during the few seconds the recording was played" and that he "stopped the playback immediately upon recognizing the defense ...

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