Judge rejects new trial based on Task Force probe

LISBON – There will not be a new jury trial for a man convicted earlier this year on drug charges and claiming the decision should be overturned because of a state investigation into the Columbiana County Drug Task Force.

Columbiana County Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Washam ruled Gregory Lewis Bradley Jr. did not file his request for a new trial within the required 14 days of conviction.

Bradley was convicted by a jury in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court in April 2011, following a trial which included testimony from DTF members. The charges against Bradley included four counts of drug trafficking and two counts of drug possession.

His initial request for a new trial was filed in July 2013. It included clips from a newspaper article talking about the state investigation into the books of the DTF. Among those to testify at Bradley’s trial was DTF Director Dan Downard, who was replaced as the agency’s leader once the investigation into the DTF began.

Bradley filed the appeal himself from the Richland Correctional Institute, where he is serving nine years.

The investigation into the DTF was prompted by Sheriff Ray Stone, who reportedly saw discrepancies in the books of the DTF, changed the locks on the office and called in the state Bureau of Criminal Information and Investigation.

At the Nov. 26, 2012 meeting of the Drug Task Force board, Downard was replaced by Brian McLaughlin, who in subsequent months was given permission to close all the financial accounts of the department and open new ones. The board also approved a new policy for handling seized drug money, which was previously being held in a safe at the DTF evidence room, but is now being placed in a separate bank account. The investigation began after Stone received information about an issue with a cell phone being used by someone who was not DTF personnel.

Washam notes in his ruling allegations against Downard are not evidence and Bradley has failed to clearly identify any newly discovered evidence applicable to his case.