A jury took three hours to find Christopher Aaron Susaraba, 30, guilty of both charges Thursday in Kosciusko Circuit Court.
Susaraba was charged with Level 1 felony dealing in a controlled substance resulting in death and Level 5 felony trafficking with an inmate. Prosecutors charged him after fellow inmate of K block, Dennis McCrory, overdosed from meth and heroin and died while in the custody of the sheriff.
After the guilty verdicts were read, McCrory’s mother sobbed.
The three-day trial, presided over by Judge Mike Reed, exposed the rampant drug use happening in the county jail, with witnesses for both sides talking about drug deals going down behind bars and tattooing taking place. Susaraba was represented by Everett and Helen Newman, and Kosciusko County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Buehler argued on behalf of the state.
Inmates from the county jail who were subpoenaed to testify said meth and heroin was being smoked, snorted and shot up with syringes in the jail and that Susaraba was known as a tattoo artist, rigging up a tattoo pen using a small motor from the jailhouse TV.
Tattooing is not allowed in the jail.
“One thing that really hit home with me was when Mr. Buehler said ‘somehow Mr. Susaraba smuggled something into the jail,” Newman said in closing arguments Thursday. “They don’t have any idea. … They don’t have any evidence in the least as credible. What we have is a situation where the state would have you believe he (Susaraba) transformed the block from a clean place into a den of iniquity. … Even the jail officer told you there are drugs in the jail.”
The state’s case was that there weren’t any drugs in the K block until after Susaraba arrived.
“The state has to do more than that,” Newman said. “They want you to guess and fill in the gaps. They have no evidence, no photos, no jail staff testifying, they interviewed 27 people and all they could produce to bring into court in front of you was two. … You go for what you can get. You try to find some understanding, but their understanding is wrong,” Newman argued of the state trying to pin the drug activity solely on Susaraba.
“Just because he did tattoo work doesn’t mean he didn’t sell these drugs,” Buehler said, trying to drive home the state’s point of McCrory’s girlfriend depositing $150 into Susaraba’s jail inmate account the day before the overdose as a payment for drugs, not tattoo work.
Reed will sentence Susaraba at a later date, with a sentence enhancement for being a habitual offender with two prior felony convictions.