ELYRIA — A Georgia man was found guilty by a jury for having a secret compartment in the car he was driving on the Ohio Turnpike in 2013.
Norman Gurley, 35, of Atlanta, was indicted in 2014 on a fourth-degree felony charge of designing/operating a vehicle with a hidden compartment used to transport a controlled substance. The Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office has said Gurley was the first person to face the felony charge in Lorain County at the time of the indictment.
The trial took years to work its way through the system due to numerous continuations and rescheduling of hearings and trial dates, according to court documents.
Gurley’s trial began Monday morning, and late Tuesday afternoon the jury returned a guilty verdict on the one count.
Gurley was stopped by the Ohio Highway Patrol on the Turnpike on Nov. 19, 2013, for speeding and following too closely, according to an initial report on his arrest. Troopers smelled raw marijuana inside the vehicle and upon searching the vehicle they found a small amount of marijuana.
While searching the vehicle, troopers also found an electronic, after-market, hidden compartment built into the rear seat, according to the report.
Prosecutors have said the secret compartment was a metal box installed in the rear seat of the car controlled by an electronic switch. The compartment was empty when troopers found it during what has been described as a routine traffic stop.
Prosecutors have said it’s not illegal to have a secret compartment in a vehicle in Ohio as long as it’s not used for transporting contraband such as drugs. Police and prosecutors believe Gurley was using the compartment for that.
The law against using secret compartments to smuggle contraband was passed in 2012.
Gurley is scheduled to be sentenced on the matter by Judge James Miraldi on Oct. 5.