Trial begins for two men charged in narcotics case

By Abby Morris

The criminal trial for two men arrested in April 2001 and charged with possession of schedule II narcotics for resale began Monday in Carter County Circuit Court.
   James Skaggs, 59, 606 Lamont Street, Johnson City, and Theodore O'Neal, of Knoxville, were arrested by Drug Task Force Agent Tim Tester after a traffic stop on Powder Branch Road near the entrance to Happy Valley High School. Skaggs, who was driving the vehicle at the time, was charged with driving on a suspended license.
   Tester then searched the car and found approximately 3.1 grams of Crack cocaine under the passenger seat, according to the indictment. During testimony in court, Tester said the original weight of the drug included the weight of the plastic bag it was contained in.
   Lab reports from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation later determined the weight of the actual Crack cocaine to be approximately 1 gram.
   O'Neal, who was the passenger in the car, was also searched, and agents found what was described as a "crack pipe" in his pants pocket, claims the indictment.
   Both men were charged with possession of a schedule II narcotic for resale. O'Neal was also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.
   Since both individuals have been charged with possession of the drug for resale, one of the important laws that will come into play during the case, according to Assistant District Attorney General, Kenneth Baldwin, is a law that defines criminal responsibility for the conduct of another. According to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 39-11-402, "a person is criminally responsible for an offense committed by the conduct of another if ... acting with intent to promote or assist the commission of the offense, or to benefit in the proceeds or results of the offense, the person solicits, directs, aids, or attempts to aid another person to commit the offense."
   Baldwin gave the jury an example of someone breaking into a home to show how one person may be considered criminally responsible for the actions of another.
   He explained that if an individual breaks into a home and steals something, then exits the home and gets into a car with another person driving, the driver is also responsible for the burglary even though he/she did not physically enter the home or take anything.
   The state of Tennessee intends to prove in this case that while only one of the defendants may have actually attempted to sell the drug, the other was aiding him in committing that crime.
   According to case files, Skaggs, aka "Coach", has a previous record of drug charges and convictions, including a DUI in Kingsport, possession of schedule II and schedule IV narcotics in Johnson City, illegal possession of a firearm in Johnson City, criminal possession of a weapon in New York, as well as various larceny and forgery charges in New York.
   In addition to the drug charges Skaggs faces in Carter County, he is scheduled to stand trial in Washington County on Dec. 3 on similar charges.
   In May of this year, Skaggs and another individual were arrested and charged with selling 1.7 grams of cocaine to a confidential informant for the DTF.
   Both Skaggs and his co-defendant in Washington County, Wendy Riddle, 32, Lakewood Drive, Johnson City, were charged with the sale of schedule II narcotics. Riddle was also charged with simple possession of schedule III narcotics when agents found Lortab on her person during the search.
   In the Washington County case, as in the Carter County case, several witnesses, including DTF agents, were summoned to appear to testify. The trial is expected to end today.