All but two charges in a six-count indictment lodged against Meesha N. Pettiford, 22, were thrown out of court Monday in a plea and sentence agreement with the state in the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas.
The two charges that Pettiford plead guilty to were corrupting another with drugs, a second-degree felony, and illegal conveyance of drugs onto the grounds of a detention facility, a low-tier third degree felony.
Four other charges — including involuntary manslaughter, a first-degree felony — were dismissed by the state in a jointly-negotiated plea and sentence agreement with Pettiford and her attorney, Jon Paul Rion.
Pettiford’s charges arose from allegations that she hid drugs inside of a body cavity when she was booked into the Fayette County Jail June 8, 2016 and gave those drugs to another inmate, causing the inmate to suffer an overdose and later die.
Steven Beathard, Fayette County Court of Common Pleas Judge, entered the conviction on the two counts and proceeded forward with sentencing in the case. Sentencing was negotiated to a total term of four-and-a-half years in prison, with two of the four years mandatory time for corrupting another with drugs.
Pettiford was credited with 150 days of jail time already served on the charges since her May 8 booking in the Fayette County Jail.
Monday’s hearing in the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas was the final stop before the case was scheduled to head to trial Tuesday morning. Judge Beathard said negotiations had been ongoing for months and continued for 45 minutes inside the courtroom prior to the hearing.
Pettiford’s six-count indictment alleged that shortly after she was booked into the jail June 8, 2016, she gave an unknown amount of fentanyl and cocaine to an inmate named Tiara Adams, who ingested the drugs and overdosed that same day. According to statements and records, Adams was treated for an alleged overdose June 8, 2016 at Fayette County Memorial Hospital, was returned to the jail and kept in isolation, and found non-responsive by jail staff. Adams was transported to a Columbus-area hospital and pronounced dead.
Today the Fayette County Jail, now the oldest continuously operating jail in the state, has increased security in the inmate booking process with the addition of a full body scanner; when Pettiford and Adams were booked into the Fayette County Jail in 2016, there was no body scanner, and without a search warrant, the drugs Pettiford admitted to hiding in her body cavity were unable to be detected by law enforcement.
If the case proceeded to trial Tuesday, it’s unknown if the state intended to present any evidence to show that the drug Pettiford admitted to bringing into the jail was the same drug that caused Adams’ death. At the state’s request, discovery documents in the case file were sealed, including Adams’ autopsy report, medical records, and the bill of particulars, a formal written document filed by the prosecutor that provides a more detailed explanation of the allegations.
The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office launched an investigation into Adams’ death and stated that they believed that Adams’ alleged overdose was caused by a female jail inmate who had conveyed a drug inside her body cavity and then given it to Adams.
In sentencing, Pettiford was ordered to serve two years in prison of mandatory time with no eligibility for good-time credit for corrupting another with drugs, a second-degree felony.
An additional two-and-half-year sentence was ordered on the charge of illegal conveyance of drugs onto the grounds of a detention facility, a low-tier third degree felony, with eligibility for one to five days of good-time credit. Transitional control, including the possibility of spending the last six months of the sentence in a half-way house, are at the discretion of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said Beathard.
Court records show Pettiford was on probation at the time she committed the offenses in the case and Beathard said the court will make a determination as to the additional sentencing that will be imposed from that case.
Weade stated in open court that the state had “consulted with the victim’s family extensively” throughout the plea and sentence negotiation process. By negotiating her own plea and sentence, Pettiford gave up any chance of appeal in the charges.
In reaching the jointly-negotiated plea and sentence, Weade stated, “In consultation with the victim’s family, we discussed potential trial outcomes and resolutions to which the defendant was willing to agree, both in terms of charges and sentencing. At that point, we decided, with the blessing of the victim’s family to take the involuntary manslaughter charge off the table to reach a plea agreement, and allow certainty and closure to the victim’s family. They do not have to sit through a trial or an appeals process and my sincere hope is that this agreement allows closure to come to the victim’s family.”
Reach Ashley by calling (740) 313-0355 or connect on Twitter by searching Twitter.com for @ashbunton