ELYRIA – Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Mark Betleski blasted prosecutors on Friday after a jury found a Lorain convicted killer guilty in an unrelated drug case.
Patrick Griffin, 46, is already serving a sentence of 43 years to life in prison for the Thanksgiving Day 2009 shooting death of his neighbor, Alberto “Cookie” Gutierrez, whose body was found in a ditch along Pratt Road in HuntingtonTownship. Griffin was convicted of aggravated murder and other charges in Gutierrez’s slaying in 2011.
After the jury returned a guilty verdict on drug possession, DUI and possession of drug abuse instruments Friday, Betleski sentenced Griffin to 18 months in prison. But because the new prison sentence was run concurrent, Griffin has already served enough time to complete that sentence.
Betleski called the two-day trial “a significant waste of the court’s resources” and also said that Lorain police officers had to take time to either sit through the trial or appear as witnesses.
He said the prosecution did manage to force Griffin to forfeit ownership of the 1995 Toyota Camry he was driving when police pulled him over on Oct. 31, 2009.
Defense attorney Kenneth Ortner said that police found approximately 1¼ ounces of cocaine in the car during the traffic stop.
He also said Griffin had been willing to plead to the charges in the case and avoid the trial if prosecutors would allow him to give the car to a family member. Prosecutors refused and Griffin went to trial.
“He had nothing to lose,” Ortner said.
CountyProsecutor Dennis Will defended his office’s decision to reject the plea deal and take the drug case to trial.
He said Griffin shouldn’t have been able to benefit by giving the car to a family member.
Will also said that the drug prosecution amounted to a desire to “hedge our bets so to speak” in case Griffin is successful in his attempts to get his murder conviction overturned on appeal or through other legal avenues.
“I’ve seen life sentences overturned and challenged,” Will said.
Betleski said after the hearing that he doesn’t always think it’s a bad idea to prosecute someone serving a life sentence.
For instance, the judge said he sentenced Neil Simpson, who is serving life in prison for the June 2007 slaying of Granny D’ Pizza owner David Kowalczyk, to an additional 41 years in prison for two armed robberies in which no one was killed.
The additional robbery cases were prosecuted after a jury spared Simpson – who famously spit on a jury member – the death penalty in his murder case.
“He was on a crime spree in which every time he committed a crime there was a new victim,” Betleski said, adding that that wasn’t the case with Griffin’s drug possession case.
Ortner said prosecutors did agree to drop another 2009 drug case against Griffin stemming from an arrest in Elyria because a witness wasn’t available for trial. But he also said that prosecutors reserved the right to refile that case at a later date.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.