A Highland County jury on Thursday found a Greenfield man guilty on complicity charges after a January high-speed chase culminated in his arrest.
Andy Munyon, 34, was indicted for complicity to receiving stolen property, a fourth degree felony, and complicity to failure to comply, a third-degree felony.
After hearing testimony, the jury found Munyon guilty on both counts, but determined the complicity to failure to comply charge did not cause substantial risk of serious physical harm to those involved, making it a first-degree misdemeanor instead of a third-degree felony.
According to Highland County Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins, Munyon is facing a maximum of a year and a half in prison for complicity to receiving stolen property and six months in jail for complicity to failure to comply.
Munyon was represented by Hillsboro defense attorney Lee Koogler, while Collins represented the state.
Collins brought six witnesses to the stand, including the victim, Tony Palarie, Greenfield Police Chief Jeremiah Oyer, Sgt. Craig Seaman and Det. Sgt. Randy Sanders with the Highland County Sheriff’s Office, and Richie Penn and Charles Pennington, both of whom were involved in the case.
Palarie said he was working on a utility infrastructure project in Ross County when it was brought to his attention that a white GMC utility truck had been found missing in early January of this year. A report was filed, and Palarie began communicating with Sanders on the matter.
Penn, who is currently facing charges in the case, testified he had bought the truck from Randy “Cricket” Smith, who he said told him it was stolen. Penn said he and Pennington picked Munyon up at his father’s residence in the truck, sold a transmission and catalytic converter at a junkyard, then bought some methamphetamine and consumed it while pulled over on Fishback Road.
Afterward, Penn said, the three drove to Penn’s home in Greenfield and worked together to paint the truck’s bed in an attempt to change its identity. Munyon testified that he did not help paint the truck, but instead cleaned it out and detailed the inside.
Sanders testified that he was conducting surveillance of the home, and could see the top of the truck over a privacy fence.
Penn said Pennington left to pick up his wife, then Penn began driving Munyon to Munyon’s home. On the way, Penn said, they stopped at a store to pick up cigarettes.
Sanders, who was tailing the truck, said he confirmed with the sheriff’s office that the registration was faulty and the tags were expired. Sanders said he alerted Seaman of the truck’s location, and when Penn and Munyon pulled away from the store, Seaman attempted to pull them over.
Seaman said the truck then took off.
Penn testified that he offered Munyon an opportunity to get out of the vehicle when the chase began, but Munyon encouraged him to drive while fastening his seat belt. Munyon testified to the contrary, saying he was never offered an opportunity to leave the vehicle and told Penn to stop.
Several witnesses confirmed the chase lasted several minutes before the truck became stuck in mud in a field. At that time, Munyon jumped out of the car as Penn was attempting to get the truck out of the mud, according to several witnesses, and Munyon laid face down in an adjacent corn field.
Seaman, who handles police dog Django for the sheriff’s office, testified that once he located Munyon, he warned him that he had a K9 and Munyon would be attacked if he didn’t obey orders. At that time, Seaman said Munyon rose as if to flee, but Django “engaged” him on his right forearm, subduing him.
Oyer, the Greenfield police chief, said after Penn was apprehended in the truck, he helped Seaman take Munyon into custody.
Koogler argued in his closing statement that Munyon was a victim of his circumstances – albeit brought on by his poor choices – citing Munyon’s testimony that he didn’t know the truck was stolen and never had an opportunity to get out during the chase until it was over. Even then, Koogler said, Munyon complied with law enforcement by stretching face down in the field at a safe distance from the truck.
“Andy Munyon was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong people,” Koogler said.
In her closing argument, Collins said Munyon only said “I don’t recall” painting the truck, and removed items that indicated the truck was in fact stolen. Penn and Pennington had no reason to lie in their testimony, Collins argued, but Munyon did.
Collins said the defense that Munyon was in the wrong place at the wrong time was “nonsense.”
“He could have changed the course of his actions,” Collins said.
Coss ordered Munyon be assessed for eligibility for the STAR Community Justice Center. He is set for a sentencing hearing May 18.
Penn has a criminal record in Highland County dating back to 1995, according to court documents. Court documents show he is charged with felony failure to comply and receiving stolen property, and his case is currently working its way through the court system. There is no record of Pennington being charged, but he is currently incarcerated on a different case.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.