Whitesburg KY

Jury finds ex-referee guilty on drug charge

A state championship basketball referee could receive between five and 20 years in prison after a jury has convicted him of drug trafficking.

After deliberating for two hours and 58 minutes on May 15, a Letcher Circuit Court jury found Tommy Hutton, 61, guilty of two counts of first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance.

A tampering with physical evidence charge was dismissed after the jury announced it was hung 11- 1. A class D felony carries a penalty of one to five years in prison.

Hutton, who is a former basketball, baseball and softball umpire, testified Tuesday afternoon and admitted to selling five oxycodone tablets to an informant named “Bird Dog” on April 19, 2011. Hutton also admitted to selling five oxycodone tablets on April 28, 2011 to Bird Dog. Hutton testified that he sold painkillers twice and said he only sold the controlled substances to Bird Dog.

Both of the drug buys were recorded. Although the camera malfunctioned on the first transaction, the audio was clear. The camera system functioned properly during the second drug buy.

Hutton testified that his wife died in August 2010 and he incurred significant debt from his wife’s funeral bills. James W. Craft, Hutton’s attorney, said Joseph Jay “J.J.” Wright, who was a friend of Hutton’s, offered to help him out with his finances if Hutton would help him sell pain pills.

“He gave me the pills,” said Hutton. “I would get a cut — $10 on every pill that was sold.”

The Letcher County Sheriff ’s Department and Kentucky State Police executed a search warrant at Hutton’s Fleming residence on April 29, 2011. Former KSP Det. Chuck Bledsoe testified that he found a blue pill bottle containing 18 tablets located beside a road near Hutton’s residence. Bledsoe said he found the pill bottle, which looks similar to one seen in the recording from the second drug buy, when he walked outside the house from the living room. Bledsoe said it would have been possible for Hutton to have thrown the pill bottle from the porch.

Letcher Commonwealth’s Attorney Edison G. Banks II said that Hutton had told Bird Dog on the recording from April 28, 2011 that he was going to umpire a softball game, but that he would be back at 9 p.m. if Bird Dog needed any more pain pills and that Hutton had 20 pills left.

While testifying Hutton denied that the pill bottle belonged to him.

Craft said because fingerprints were not collected from the pill bottle, speculation could only be made as to whom it belonged.

Beverly Wagoner, a forensic laboratory supervisor at the KSP crime lab in London, testified that she conducted an instrumental analysis on one green tablet from the first set of five pills and she also analyzed one green tablet from the second set of five pills. Wagoner said the two pills placed in the machine are 15-milligram instant release oxycodone tablets. She didn’t analyze any of the 18 pills found near Hutton’s residence, but said based on the appearance the pills had the pharmaceutical preparation of oxycodone.

Wagoner said based on House Bill 463, she only had to test up to 10 dosage units, with one tablet equaling a dosage unit.

Craft argued that since Wagoner didn’t test every pill that she only knows that Hutton sold two pills of oxycodone.

“That’s the only thing we know for sure,” said Craft. “In the third baggie, we don’t know what is in it because she didn’t test it.”

Banks argued that if every pill had been tested it would have taken more than two workdays to complete the testing. Banks said he wished that they could test every pill, but that they don’t have crime labs like on the investigative television shows. Banks said common sense can be applied.

“If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it must be a duck,” said Banks.

Craft took issue with the camera equipment malfunctioning on the first drug buy, but Banks said the voices and conversations are similar on the second recording.

“This is where you must have cold, hard evidence,” said Craft.

Banks said when police came to search Hutton’s residence they had to force entry into the home and Bledsoe testified that Hutton was coming from the living room to the kitchen. Banks said Hutton was near a television monitor that was hooked up to a video surveillance camera that kept watch on the door to the residence where the police entered. Banks said Hutton had time to see the police coming and dispose of the blue pill bottle.

Hutton testified that he was on the other end of the house walking on a treadmill.

Banks said during closing arguments that Hutton was bragging on the second recording to the informant that he had gone to Letcher County Sheriff Danny Webb and told him that he wasn’t selling drugs, but was selling barbeque sauce. He told the informant if police stopped him on his way to Hutton’s residence to tell police he was buying barbeque sauce, Banks said.

Banks also asked Hutton what he was talking about on the recording when he was telling Bird Dog about “snorting green beans.”

Hutton told Banks he has three lower discs that are deteriorating.

“It helps me,” said Hutton.

Banks asked Hutton about $500 that was found in his pocket when police executed a search warrant on April 29, 2011 at his McRoberts home.

“That’s money I pay my bills with,” said Hutton.

The penalty phase of the trial will begin in Letcher Circuit Court at 9 a.m. today (Wednesday). Hutton could receive five to 10 years in prison for each of the two firstdegree trafficking in a controlled substance charges, which are class C felonies. Hutton must serve 20 percent of the sentence to be eligible for parole.

Banks said this may be one of the first cases to be tried under House Bill 463.

In May 2011 when Hutton was indicted, J.J. Wright, 40, a former softball and baseball umpire from McRoberts, was also indicted on drug charges. A grand jury accused Wright of trafficking in oxycodone (first degree) in each of three indictments with an additional count of trafficking in a controlled substance within 1,000 yards of a school in one of the indictments. In a fourth indictment, he is accused of possession of a controlled substance (first degree), possession of a controlled substance (second degree), possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a controlled substance not in its original container, and tampering with evidence.

Letcher Circuit Judge Sam Wright signed an order granting pretrial diversion for J.J. Wright on March 28, 2012. The two-year diversion for J.J. Wright, who was represented by attorney Daniel Dotson, is to be “supervised with maximum permitted random drug and alcohol screenings.” J.J. Wright must pay a monthly supervision fee of $10. He must also pay $600 in restitution to the Letcher County Sheriff ’s Department and $130 in court costs.

As part of the pretrial diversion agreement, Probation and Parole is to conduct home visits.

J.J. Wright cannot have access to handguns or firearms and he cannot commit another offense during the time of the pretrial diversion.

He must remain drug and alcohol free and is subject to random testing.

He has been accepted into the Letcher County drug court program.

J.J. Wright must either remain gainfully employed on a full-time basis or perform 40 hours per week of supervised and court approved community service.

To be eligible for pretrial diversion, he cannot have a felony conviction in the 10 years prior to the commission of the current offenses or have been on probation or parole.

If J.J. Wright completes pretrial diversion the charges will be designated as dismissed or diverted and the court will order these files to be expunged. If he fails to complete pretrial diversion, the court may impose a sentence equal to or less than the penalty recommended by the Commonwealth’s Attorney, which was a prison sentence of five years.

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