By Dave Pearce
According to information provided by the Posey County Prosecutor’s office, Posey County residents won two significant battles against crime over the past two weeks.
“Last week’s conviction in the case of Floyd “Junie” Stewart and this week winning a conviction on Michael Chamlee, it has been a good two weeks for the people of Posey County,” Posey County Deputy Prosecutor Jonathan Parkhurst said.
Following last week’s conviction of cocaine dealer Floyd Stewart, this week, Michael Chamlee was convicted of Dealing in Methamphetamine, a Class A felony which carries a 20- to 50-year sentence. He was also charged with unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, a Class B felony punishable by six to 20 years in prison. He was also found guilty of possession of chemical reagents or precursors with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine, a Class C felony.
According to Posey County Deputy Prosecutor Jonathan Parkhurst, the conviction stems from the July 21, 2011 arrest of Chamlee at his residence. But the circumstances leading to the arrest leaves Posey County law enforcement in the opinion that they are making progress against illegal drug activity in Posey County.
Parkhurst said members of the Posey County Drug Task Force, the Posey County Sheriff’s Department and Indiana State Police, along with Chad Forman, a special agent with the federal ATF, went to the Chamlee residence at 1000 Hastings Lane to serve an arrest warrant on Chamlee’s wife, Joanna.
“They had information that they might also find firearms and a meth lab in the home,” Parkhurst said.
Ultimately, Joanna Chamlee was placed under arrest on a misdemeanor battery warrant and officers entered the home on a couple of occasions on that evening to obtain shoes for Mrs. Chamlee and positive identification for the booking.
“When they were inside the home with her, officers saw some long guns. They then went and obtained a search warrant. Posey County Superior Court Judge Brent Almon signed the search warrant authorizing the search of the home and the property for firearms and ammunition,” Parkhurst said.
Chamlee had a prior conviction in Vanderburgh County of conspiracy to deal methamphetamine, a class B felony. Because of that prior conviction, it made it unlawful for him to be in possession of firearms.
“They began the search of the home and property for firearms and ammunition and ultimately found seven shotguns or rifles and four handguns and over 500 rounds of ammunition,” Parkhurst said. “And while they were searching for the weapons, detective Jeremy Fortune observed several items commonly associated with manufacturing methamphetamine.”
At that point, Fortune returned to Judge Brent Almon asking for a second search warrant to search the property for evidence of manufacturing methamphetamine.”
The officers then found an active meth lab with a liquid that was bubbling while being used as part of the manufacturing process. They also found many items commonly used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine.
During the search, two safes in the house were opened and in one of the safes, officers found multiple coffee filters that had been used to filter the liquid from the drug during the manufacturing process. Officers were able to remove methamphetamine from the filters, as well as some baggie corners which contained the drug. Those items were sent to the Indiana State Police labs and were found to weigh in excess of three grams and were confirmed as methamphetamine.
Officers also found approximately 1,000 pseudoephedrine pills. Posey County Drug Task Supervisor Kenneth Rose testified during the trial that in his training and experience that not only was there an active lab in the home, but that many of the pills could be used to produce a minimum of at least another 10 grams of the drug.
Chamlee was represented by Mount Vernon attorney Jake Warrum, who back in the summer had made a motion to suppress this information, claiming that the initial entry into the home was unlawful.
Following a hearing, the motion was denied by Judge Almon. Following that hearing, Joanna Chamlee was also charged with dealing and/or being in possession of methamphetamine.
Mrs. Chamlee pled guilty and was sentenced earlier this year.
Mr. Chamlee decided to go to trial on the charges this week but they “waived jury,” and just tried it to Judge Almon
Chamlee has been in jail since July 21, 2011.
During the bench trial before Judge Brent Almon, Parkhurst said federal ATF agent Chad Foreman testified that seven long guns, rifles and shotguns, and four handguns were found in Chamlee’s bedroom. Detective Kenneth Rose, supervisor of the Posey County Drug Task Force, testified more than three grams of methamphetamine and enough pseudoephedrine pills to make at least 10 grams of methamphetamine were found in three safes in the home and an active lab in the garage.
Parkhurst also called Posey County Sheriff’s Deputy Dan Montgomery, Foreman, Fortune, Rose, and officer Rebecca Nickless, a forensic chemist with the Indiana State Police Department lab. The only testimony for the defense was Chamlee’s wife, Joanna.
Besides being found guilty of the first three charges, the judge took under advisement charges four and five, possession of methamphetamine, over three grams, a Class C felony, and possession of methamphetamine while also in possession of a firearm.
“There was some question as to whether those would be incorporated into the Class A felony manufacturing charge.
Sentencing has been set for December 11.
“He had a prior felony conviction in Vanderburgh County and a lot of guns and ammunition came out of that home and we are happy with the judge finding him guilty,” Parkhurst said.
Parkhurst indicated that he fully expects an appeal due primarily to the denial of the request of suppression of some of the information.
“We have presented case law and evidence to the judge and we feel that our entry into the home by the police was more than lawful and we feel confident this case will be upheld on appeal,” Parkhurst said.