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State v. Edgar

Court of Appeals of Utah

March 23, 2017

State of Utah, Appellee,
v.
Michael John Edgar, Appellant.

         Fourth District Court, Provo Department The Honorable Lynn W. Davis No. 131403487

          Emily Adams, Attorney for Appellant

          Sean D. Reyes and Christopher D. Ballard, Attorneys for Appellee

          Judge J. Frederic Voros Jr. authored this Opinion, in which Judges Michele M. Christiansen and David N. Mortensen concurred.

          OPINION

          VOROS, Judge

         ¶1 Michael John Edgar appeals his convictions for various drug offenses. Edgar principally contends that his trial counsel performed ineffectively by not objecting to testimony that Edgar tried to negotiate a plea deal based on his ties to drug dealers. But Edgar admitted to police that the drugs in question were his, and his admission was corroborated by another witness. Accordingly, he cannot demonstrate that his counsel's trial performance resulted in prejudice. We therefore affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 On November 21, 2013 officers followed a vehicle that left Edgar's home during surveillance of the house. After noting several traffic violations, they pulled the vehicle over. The driver of the car identified herself as Edgar's wife. Police questioned Edgar's wife and the female passenger. When the women gave inconsistent statements, the officers approached the vehicle with a drug dog. The officers found drugs on the passenger's person. The officers also found a safe in the car's trunk, and the drug dog indicated the presence of drugs within the safe. Edgar called his wife multiple times during the stop. When she finally answered, the officer asked whether he could speak to him; she handed the officer her phone. The officer asked Edgar to come to the scene; Edgar asked the officers to let his wife and the other passenger go. Edgar agreed to talk to the officers as long as they didn't open the safe. And he agreed to meet the officers at another location.

         ¶3 When Edgar failed to show up at the designated location, the officers went to his house and arrested him. When they asked him to open the safe, he refused to give them the combination because doing so, he said, would implicate him. They then forcibly opened the safe, finding drug paraphernalia, a digital scale, distributable amounts of drugs, and a prescription bottle bearing Edgar's name. Police then searched Edgar's house and found drugs and paraphernalia in his room. When questioned about the contents of the safe, Edgar said that the drugs belonged to him and that his wife had no involvement. The passenger in the car corroborated Edgar's admission.

         ¶4 During his interview, Edgar offered to cooperate with police, saying that he would give them "big people" and that he had "ties to people that he could offer up" in exchange for leniency on the current charges. During the interview, Edgar never denied knowledge of the safe or its contents.

         ¶5 Edgar was charged with two counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, second degree felonies; two counts of possession or use of a controlled substance, class B misdemeanors; and one count of use or possession of drug paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor.

         ¶6 Over the next several months, Edgar contacted the investigating officer 15 to 20 times about the prospect of becoming a confidential informant. During one of the phone calls, he indicated that he knew several "big players" who "carry weight"-meaning that they distribute "large amounts of illegal drugs, namely methamphetamine"-and offered to identify those people in exchange for leniency. The officer declined Edgar's offer.

         ¶7 Edgar also contacted a local Drug Enforcement Administration agent in an attempt to receive leniency on his pending charges. He informed the DEA agent that he "had access to a Mexican source of supply for heroin" and that "he was capable of getting pounds" from that source. The DEA agent also declined Edgar's offer. The investigating officer and the DEA agent both testified at trial.

         ¶8 In closing arguments at trial, the prosecutor made a statement intimating that Edgar had told the DEA agent that Edgar was actually distributing drugs himself. The prosecutor told the jury, "Got a drug dealer admittedly, trying to work off charges with the Major Crimes Task Force, the DEA, how many of us would have the wherewithal to call the DEA and say, Hey, I've got these drug charges, I need to work, I'm ...


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