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California man cleared of charges in $1.5M Decatur drug bust

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DECATUR — A California man, stopped riding past Decatur in a van with $1.5 million worth of cannabis in the back, has been found not guilty of drug trafficking charges.

Joshua A. Fitch, 42, was acquitted of cannabis trafficking, unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to deliver and unlawful possession of cannabis.

Fitch

Fitch

The verdicts were delivered by Macon County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Geisler after a bench trial that concluded Thursday; Fitch, who had been held in the Macon County Jail in lieu of $300,000 bail since his arrest in February 2020, was immediately ordered released and has since returned home.

The 64-year-old-van driver, Vincent D. Johnson, also from California, remains jailed awaiting trial on identical charges with bail set at $500,000. His case is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Nov. 4 and he is being defended by attorney Daniel L. Fultz.

Johnson

Johnson

Johnson’s van had been pulled over by Macon County Sheriff’s Office deputies the evening of Feb. 18, 2020, as it was eastbound on Interstate 72. Police had discovered 160 pounds of cannabis packed into the back of the vehicle.

Johnson had described Fitch as a hitchhiker he had picked up, and Fitch’s defense attorney, Mark Kevin Wykoff Sr., had argued there was no evidence linking his client to the drugs.

“I believe the state tried to take a pig’s ear and transform it into a silk purse, but the fact of the matter is the evidence simply didn’t support the conviction of my client,” Wykoff said, commenting on the case Sunday.

“And we were always most confident that Judge Geisler would see the evidence for exactly what it was: a pig’s ear as opposed to a silk purse.”

2 Macon County defendants try, and fail, to get $1.5 million drug package evidence thrown out in court

Wykoff said Fitch’s claims that he knew nothing about the drugs being present in the van were bolstered when the vacuum-sealed drug packages were brought into the courtroom during the bench trial.

“Honestly, I was in the well of the courtroom and I couldn’t smell it,” Wykoff said of the cannabis.

Wykoff said Fitch had maintained he was just trying to get to Columbus, Ohio, to visit his dying grandmother. The lawyer said police had checked out those claims and found that his grandmother was indeed in hospice care where Fitch said she was.

“And although it didn’t come out in the trial, she actually shortly thereafter died after Mr. Fitch came into custody,” Wykoff added.


Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid

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