Brandon James Kifer, 38, of Morrisdale, who was found passed out in a vehicle with a large amount of methamphetamine, was found guilty of drug distribution and possession charges during a jury trial yesterday before President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman.
Kifer was found guilty of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, an ungraded felony, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, both of which are ungraded misdemeanors.
Chief Douglas Clark of the Lawrence Township Police Department testified under direct questioning by First Assistant District Attorney that on Dec. 7 at approximately 1:45 p.m. Clearfield County dispatch radioed and said there was a report of a male passed out in a gold Chevrolet Silverado that was parked on the sidewalk in front of the Walmart Supercenter. A store employee unsuccessfully tried to wake the male.
He and Officer Eric Routch responded to the scene, while en route, dispatch radioed and said the vehicle had been moved to the back of the parking lot.
Upon arrival they located the vehicle and found Kifer slumped over in the driver’s seat. They banged on the window for about a minute before Kifer woke up and he appeared to be under the influence of something. He said Kifer’s voice was raspy and his speech slurred, and his hands were trembling.
“He appeared he was not all there,” Clark said.
They asked him for his identification and Clark said he went back to his patrol car to run his information through the in-car computer to confirm his identity and determine if he had any warrants.
While he did that, Routch continued his investigation and performed field sobriety tests on Kifer.
Kifer was then arrested, cuffed and patted down. Clark said he patted down Kifer and found a rubber glove inside of Kifer’s front hoodie pocket. Inside the glove were two baggies containing approximately an ounce of crystal methamphetamine each, for a total of about two ounces or about 56 grams total.
Also in Kifer front pants pocket he found a capped syringe. Kifer’s wallet also contained approximately $1,300 in cash.
Clark, who has extensive experience in drug enforcement with the state police as an undercover agent, criminal investigator and lieutenant before retiring and becoming chief of the Lawrence Township Police, said in his professional opinion someone with that much methamphetamine and cash is not using it solely for personal use but for sale and distribution.
During cross examination by Kifer’s attorney Leanne Nedza of the Public Defender’s Office, Nedza showed Clark a copy of Routch’s incident report, which states that the methamphetamine was found in Kifer’s pants pocket and that Clark had signed off on the report.
Clark said Routch’s report is in error and said he (Clark) didn’t catch the mistake when he reviewed the paperwork. Clark said from where Routch was standing he probably didn’t have a good view of where he found the drugs.
Nedza also showed Clark a discrepancy where some reports showed two vials of blood were taken from Kifer at Penn Highlands Clearfield and others that say there were three. Clark said all blood draw kits come with two vials and a report stating there were three was in error.
At the beginning of the trial, before the jury was brought into the courtroom, Officer Elliott Neeper of the Lawrence Township Police Department took the stand for pre-trial motions made by the defense.
Neeper testified that Kifer was taken to Penn Highlands Clearfield for a blood draw but the phlebotomist could not get enough blood from Kifer because the veins in his arms had collapsed from multiple injection sites in his arms, presumably from prior illegal drug abuse.
Because of this, the lab didn’t have enough blood for testing.
Nedza objected to allowing the jury to hear this and Dobo said the commonwealth would ask Neeper about the blood draw in the presence of the jury and when he states they were unable to get enough blood for testing, Dobo said they would leave it at that and wouldn’t get into why they were unable to get enough blood and Nedza said that was acceptable.
Neeper testified that he was contacted to perform a drug recognition evaluation on Kifer on Dec. 7. In addition to being a police officer, Neeper is also certified as a drug recognition expert.
Neeper said he performed a series of tests on Kifer and determined he was under the influence of a stimulant and was unable to safely operate a vehicle.
He was then transported to Penn Highlands Clearfield where they were unable to get enough blood from Kifer for testing.
Routch gave similar testimony as Clark. He said when questioning Kifer, Kifer admitted to snorting Subutex. He also said he didn’t get a good view of where Clark found the drugs on Kifer. Under cross examination by Nedza, Routch said Kifer did OK on some of the field sobriety tests but he would later fail those same tests when tested by Neeper.
Nedza also noted that in his report, the methamphetamine weighed 60 ounces at the police station but when it was sent to the Erie Crime Lab, the lab said it weighed approximately 54 ounces, Routch said his weight was a rough estimate. He used the police station’s scale which is not calibrated and he did not remove the drugs from its packaging to weigh it.
The defense called one witness, Jennifer Quick, the defendant’s fiancé. She testified she gave Kifer $1,500 to deposit into their bank account on Dec. 5.
During closing arguments Nedza argued that the police made critical mistakes in the investigation and said the commonwealth did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
In his closing arguements, Dobo said the evidence in the case was “overwhelming” and any errors made by the police were minor administrative errors and are immaterial to the case and asked the jury to find Kifer guilty of all charges.
The jury of 10 men and two women deliberated for approximately 30 minutes before rendering its verdict. The jury found Kifer guilty on all charges except DUI-controlled substance/2nd offense.
Kifer remains incarcerated in the Clearfield County Jail in lieu of $100,000 monetary bail. Sentencing usually occurs within 60 days.