Man sentenced to 9 years for heroin trafficking

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — A man with ties to Michigan was sentenced to nine years in a state facility for the first-degree felony of drug trafficking in the Gallia Court of Common Pleas Monday by Common Pleas Judge Margaret Evans.

Dionte Simpson, 26, was pulled over in a traffic stop April 2, 2017 by Ohio State Highway Patrol on US 35 near milepost 12. He was the front passenger. Around 80 grams of heroin was located on the driver. According to court record, during the stop Simpson indicated the drugs belonged to him.

On June 7 last year, Simpson entered a guilty plea. According to court discussion, Simpson reportedly agreed to a nine year stint in a state facility by pleading guilty to avoid any blame falling on the driver. Sentencing was then set for June 27, 2017. Simpson did not appear for sentencing that day.

Simpson was eventually taken into custody by US Marshals for a failure to appear warrant when discovered in an attic in Grand Rapids, Mich., in May this year and then reappeared before the Gallia Court of Common Pleas again in late May.

According to Gallia Prosecutor Jason Holdren, Simpson’s counsel soon filed a motion indicating he did not understand the terms of his plea agreement that he had taken. The court conducted a hearing on the motion and the prosecutor’s office presented evidence by way of phone calls that Simpson had made from his time in the Gallia Jail to oppose the motion to withdraw Simpson’s previous guilty plea. Holdren said Simpson was inquiring in the phone calls how an individual would go about withdrawing the plea and informed the person on the other end of the phone that “he had talked to other inmates in the jail and they indicated that he needed to blame his attorney, say he didn’t understand and play dumb.”

The prosecutor said court records would indicate that Simpson in his phone calls wished to go before the court and have his plea deal redone and if he could get a five year outcome it would be “gravy.” The hearing kept Simpson’s guilty plea.

“It’s my position that if you run from the law for a year after you have entered a plea agreement to a very serious felony, there is a price to be paid for that,” said Holdren.

The prosecutor’s office asked that the court sentence Simpson to 11 years. He was sentenced to nine. Simpson’s defense asked that the court hold to the original agreement as Simpson was the father of eight with a ninth on the way and again mentioned a concern that Simpson had misunderstood the original plea bargain. Simpson, himself, apologized for bringing drugs into the county, reportedly on their way to Huntington, W.Va., and asked that the court stick with nine years.

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright