EATON — A Darke County man who previously pleaded guilty to drug charges asked to withdraw that plea in Preble County Common Pleas Court Wednesday, May 20. Judge Stephen R. Bruns presided.
Ronald V. Neeley, 45, of Ansonia, appeared for a hearing on charges of aggravated possession of drugs and community control violation. Neeley pleaded guilty to the drug charge in January, but asked the court to withdraw that plea during Wednesday’s hearing, stating that his former court-appointed attorney failed to provide him with adequate counsel.
Neeley testified that he was unable to consult with his previous attorney until the day of his plea hearing, and even then for “not even five minutes.”
Neeley further stated that repeated calls to the attorney’s office had not been returned; that she had failed to present him with a copy of the indictment listing the charges against him; and that she had failed to apprise him of the nature of the evidence held by the prosecution in his case.
“She basically told me that the best thing for me to do was plead guilty and get it over with,” Neeley said.
“So you had a five-minute consultation on a major felony case, were never shown the evidence, and pleaded guilty on the advice of your attorney?” Neeley’s current defense counsel, Randall Braeden, asked.
According to a sentencing memorandum filed by the prosecution, Neeley was pulled over by Eaton police in Sept. 2019 and found to be in possession of approximately 3.5 grams of methamphetamine. While the document stated that Neeley was “cooperative and honest with law enforcement,” it ultimately recommended prison time, citing Neeley’s extensive criminal record.
“The defendant has been regularly breaking the law since he was 18 years old,” the document reads. “He has served two separate prison stints. To place him on supervision yet again would be a vain act and a waste of limited community resources.”
Preble County Prosecuting Attorney Martin Votel took issue with Neeley’s claims, citing the extensive questioning to which every defendant is subjected by the judge, in open court, before entering a plea.
“Did you tell the court that you had read the indictment?” Votel asked Neeley on the stand. “Did you tell the court that you were satisfied with the advice of counsel?” Neeley admitted that he had.
“A mere change of heart is not sufficient grounds to withdraw a plea,” Votel told the judge before he announced his ruling. Votel asked that Neeley’s previous attorney be given the chance to respond to the allegations before a decision was reached.
“I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request,” Judge Bruns replied. The judge agreed to set a hearing on the plea request for a later date. He also continued the community control case, as the violation charges stemmed from the very plea now being considered.
Also in court Wednesday:
Geneva W. Metzner, 53, of Camden, appeared on charges of aggravated possession of drugs and illegal use or possession of drug paraphernalia. A warrant for Metzner’s arrest was issued following her failure to appear for a previous hearing in March.
“My client is a 53 years young individual with a home and no income except social security, which she has to maintain a stable address in order to receive,” defense attorney John Cunningham told the court, asking that Metzner be released on bond pending additional hearings. “I think this is a good opportunity for a second chance.”
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gractia Manning disagreed, citing Metzner’s failure to appear for an ILC hearing and the withdrawal of the defendant’s previous court-appointed attorney due to not being able to maintain contact with her client.
Judge Bruns ultimately ordered Metzner released on $5,000 bond. Her next court appearance is a pre-trial conference, to be held July 16.
Dustin D. Lester, 25, of Camden, pleaded guilty to charges of domestic violence. Additional charges of abduction, possession of drug abuse instruments, intimidation of a witness in a criminal case, and assault were dismissed in accordance with a plea agreement between Lester and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
According to court documents, Lester “did, by force or threat, restrain the liberty” of the alleged victim in the case “under circumstances that created a risk of physical harm to her or placed her in fear” on or about Feb. 14 of this year. The documents also allege that this was done “to influence, intimidate or hinder the victim of a crime in the filing or prosecution of criminal charges.”
Lester’s next court appearance is a sentencing hearing, to be held June 3.
Robert Lee Clever, Jr., 56, of Dayton, pleaded guilty to charges of violating a protection order. His next court appearance is a sentencing hearing, to be held June 6.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @improperenglish