MILLERSBURG -- Two of three people facing charges for their role in alleged drug activity connected to a January traffic stop, after which a police officer was hospitalized for exposure to methamphetamine, denied criminal wrongdoing when they appeared in court recently.
Samantha Foster, 30, of 2448 Fulton Road, Wooster, pleaded not guilty in Holmes County Common Pleas Court to aggravated trafficking in drugs, aggravated possession of drugs and obstructing official business.
Robert A. Searls, 25, of 675 Bobwhite Lane, Millersburg, is similarly charged, but is not scheduled to be arraigned on the charges until March 1.
If convicted, each faces up to 11 years in prison.
Andrew A. Tennent, 39, of 2106 State Route 39, Jeromesville, pleaded not guilty to illegal conveyance of drugs of abuse onto the grounds of a specified governmental facility. He faces up to three years in prison.
Tennent and Foster are next scheduled to appear in court on April 13 for pretrial conferences.
The charges stem from a Jan. 31 incident.
That's when the Holmes County Sheriff's Office, acting on a tip Searls was not only driving under suspension, but was in possession of drugs, with the intent to sell, said Sgt. Joe Mullet.
The vehicle was stopped in the parking lot of West Holmes High School, where officers found Searls and Foster, as well as Tennent, who was in the back of the car.
Tennent later reported to investigators that Foster was measuring out crystal meth, but dumped it and smashed it into the floor of the car when she saw the officers approaching, said Mullet.
All three were arrested -- Foster and Searls for trafficking in drugs and Tennent, who allegedly had crystal meth in his socks when he was booked into the jail, for possession of drug paraphernalia.
After the three were removed and transported to the jail, officers searched the vehicle. A total of 2.1 grams of meth was recovered from the car on that date, according to Chief Deputy Richard Haun.
During the search process, according to Mullet, one officer, although protected with gloves, was exposed to meth, which is believed to have become airborne and inhaled.
His exposure was suspected after he began showing symptoms, including acting fidgety, excessively talkative and having hot flashes, said Mullet. He was taken by emergency squad to Pomerene Hospital, where he was observed before eventually being released.
Foster also has pleaded not guilty to an unrelated charge of aggravated possession of drugs, for which she faces an additional three years in prison.
That charge stems from a Jan. 9 incident during which she and Searls were found inside a vehicle stopped along County Road 400.
After a responding deputy identified them both, he arrested Foster on an outstanding warrant from Stark County. During the process, a glass jar containing suspected methamphetamine was found inside her purse.
The crystalline substance was taken into evidence and later tested positive for meth, according to Mullet, who said a total of 7 grams was recovered. Foster has said the drugs did not belong to her.
Searls was arrested for driving under suspension on that date, and he has pleaded not guilty to a related charge, which is filed in Holmes County Municipal Court.
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.