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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. 131403330

          Emily Adams, Attorney for Appellant

          Sean D. Reyes and Marian Decker, 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 was convicted of various drug- related offenses. He appeals, asserting that his trial counsel performed ineffectively by not seeking to exclude evidence of his connection to a drug dealer and by not objecting to the State's motion to amend the information on the morning of trial. Because Edgar has not demonstrated a reasonable likelihood of a different result had counsel taken these steps, we affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 In November 2013 police arrested Edgar after investigating his involvement in the sale of a stolen trailer. At the time of his arrest, Edgar was driving a borrowed car. Police searched the car and found a briefcase containing various drugs (including heroin), drug paraphernalia, packaging materials, a scale, several driver licenses and credit cards belonging to other individuals, and pill bottles bearing Edgar's name. The manner that the drugs were packaged, along with the" massive amounts of different kinds of pills, " was consistent with illegal distribution of controlled substances. The State charged Edgar with nine counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, and one count of theft by receiving stolen property.

         ¶3 On the morning of Edgar's trial, the prosecutor filed a Second Amended Information charging Edgar with committing a crime within 1, 000 feet of an athletic training facility and thus within a drug-free zone. Edgar's defense counsel researched the training facility that morning. At trial, an owner of one of the businesses located at the facility testified at trial about its location and the number of children that frequent the facility. One of the responding officers testified that Edgar was about 400 feet from the facility at the time police arrested him. Defense counsel cross-examined the business owner and the responding officer.

         ¶4 A Drug Enforcement Administration agent also testified that, while charges were pending, Edgar contacted him. When the State asked what Edgar told the agent in their phone conversation, defense counsel objected on relevance grounds. Outside of the presence of the jury, defense counsel explained that testimony relating to the agent's contact with Edgar was irrelevant because the charged conduct occurred eight months before the contact with the DEA. The court overruled the objection and the agent testified that Edgar" was seeking to cooperate with law enforcement in regard to heroin trafficking or [a] heroin trafficker that was operating out of the Salt Lake City area and that he would do so in exchange for consideration with his pending charges in Utah County." The court called the attorneys to the bench and explained that it did not want" this jury knowing that there are other pending cases" involving Edgar, because it was" potentially approaching prejudicial if he goes into each of the cases."

         ¶5 The prosecutor examined the agent further about the agent's conversation with Edgar, and the agent testified that the conversation" [h]ad to do with specifically access to a heroin trafficker who was capable of moving large quantities of heroin." The agent testified that" it was pounds specifically that we discussed, that he was capable of dealing in pounds of heroin." The prosecutor asked the agent whether Edgar discussed working with any other officers on a state level and defense counsel objected again. Outside of the presence of the jury, defense counsel explained that his objection related to the risk of revealing Edgar's involvement in other criminal matters:

I think we're bordering on testimony here that could easily lead to a mistrial. [The DEA agent] has mentioned other cases, he's mentioned . . . working with other state agents that won't be involved in this case, he's talked about matters that happened well after November 7, 2013 and I think the jurors have almost heard enough . . . to further implicate Mr. Edgar in other matters.

         Defense counsel later added, " The prejudicial nature of the testimony, there's other cases, he's working with other officers here in the state of Utah, that don't pertain necessarily to this case and we're looking at the facts for November 7, 2013 and what he was doing at that time." The court ruled that evidence that Edgar contacted and made an offer to the agent was admissible, but excluded evidence that Edgar contacted another DEA agent in another case.

         ¶6 The jury convicted Edgar of six counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance in a drug-free zone, first degree felonies; three counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance in a drug-free zone, second degree felonies; one count of theft by receiving stolen property, a third degree felony; and ...


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