The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

January 5, 2013

Man caught outside Conneaut prison fence with drugs

Second such arrest outside LaECI in less than a week

CONNEAUT — For the second time in less than a week, Conneaut police have arrested a Cleveland resident for attempting to toss contraband over the fence at the Lake Erie Correctional Institution.

This time, however, the suspect was caught with drugs, which makes the crime a felony, authorities said. Daine Johnson, 22, faces two felony counts of conveyance of drugs into a detention facility, in addition to misdemeanor versions of the offense, according to Conneaut Municipal Court records.

A preliminary hearing on the felony charges will be held at 2:45 p.m. Jan. 7, a court spokeswoman said. He will be represented by a public defender. Johnson was in city jail Friday in lieu of bond, according to reports.

Shortly after 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, police were contacted by a resident who lives in the area of Thompson Road — the entrance to LaECI — to report a suspicious man who emerged from a vehicle that had stopped nearby, said Police Chief Charles Burlingham. Police located the man on the north side of the prison, officers said in a report.

The man was trying to throw three duffle bags over the prison fences, Burlingham said. Inside the bags police found marijuana, crack cocaine, an estimated 15 pounds of tobacco, cellular telephones and phone chargers and an MP3 player, according to a report.

One week ago today, police arrested three out-of-town people suspected of throwing cell phones and tobacco over the prison fence. Those charges were misdemeanors because no weapons or drugs were involved, police said.

Earlier this week, Burlingham said police — in response to complaints from prison officials — have been aggressively patrolling the area around the prison in search of smugglers. Many of the culprits may approach the north perimeter via the Norfolk Southern Railway tracks a very short distance away, he said.

“This has been going on for months,” Burlingham said.

In November, a 59-year-old inmate was found dead in his dormitory bunk from a suspected drug overdose, officials said.

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