Man says illegal search sent him to jail

A former Marietta man who’s now served his time for a drug-related crime says he’s considered a lawsuit against the Marietta Police Department and other investigators in the case, which he believes involved an illegal search and other mistakes.

Marvin Hodges says he has not found legal counsel that advises going forward but has long wanted to tell his side of the story.

In 2011, Hodges and his wife Patricia were investigated as part of a Social Security fraud case. As officers searched the home in hopes of discovering the whereabouts of Patricia’s mother, whose benefits were still being paid, they found nine marijuana plants in an upstairs bedroom along with several other plants in the home.

Patricia’s mother was later found buried in a Florida backyard and Patricia Hodges was charged with illegally collecting her Social Security for 14 years.

The plants led Marvin Hodges, 68, now of Athens, and Patricia, 66, to be sent to prison on marijuana-related charges, but they were found during a search that violated the Hodges’ civil rights, Marvin said on Monday.

He alleges that a special agent with the Social Security Administration told Patricia that Marvin had consented to the search over the phone and she needed to sign the search consent form. However, Hodges said he never gave any such verbal permission.

“The Social Security agent lied to my wife to get her to sign the search consent,” he said.

The Marietta Police Department then conducted the search, which included digging in the backyard.

“Even though I’ve talked to several attorneys, and they all said that they violated our rights, I’m not going to sue. I believe in what the police do,” he said.

Police would have been able to search the Hodges’ home without being given consent, noted Washington County Prosecutor Jim Schneider. A search warrant issued by then-Judge Susan Boyer had been issued for the home and would have given law enforcement access to the house without consent.

Marvin, who eventually pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony charge of possession of marijuana, has now served all eight months in prison. He says he has other concerns with how the case was handled.

For example, the nine live plants Hodges said he was growing to help alleviate Patricia’s nausea after chemotherapy treatments should have never landed him a third-degree felony, according to him.

“I asked my attorney to challenge the weight, but she never did,” said Hodges, referring to Marietta attorney Nancy Brum.

Brum did not return calls seeking comment Monday.

Hodges alleged that well over half the plants that were weighed and counted toward the more than 2,000 grams in the charge were long-dead plants that he had failed to dispose of after realizing they were infected with insects.

However, Marietta Police Capt. Jeff Waite said that it is legal and common practice to weigh both live plants and dried, dead marijuana.

“It’s absolutely legal to weigh the dead plants,” said Schneider. “Like tobacco, it’s the dead plants that are dried and smoked so it’s still a usable drug.”

Patricia Hodges has also served her prison sentence on the drug charge. She served six months in prison on a fourth-degree felony cultivation charge and is currently about halfway into a 30-day sentence she received on a federal charge of theft of government money.

Patricia pleaded guilty in the Southern District Court of Ohio in February to burying her dead adoptive mother in the backyard of their Florida residence in 1997 and then continuing to collect her Social Security benefits until her arrest in November 2011.

The Hodges will set up a payment plan for the $141,962 in Social Security benefits that Patricia was ordered to repay, Marvin said. They will begin reimbursing the SSA once Patricia has finished her sentence, said Marvin, who has long held a position as a DirecTV salesman.

He said he was never part of the scheme.

“I wasn’t aware of the Social Security checks until I was arrested,” said Marvin, who added that Patricia handled all of the finances.

He said that Patricia had tried to call and have the checks stopped, but was unable to do so without a death certificate.

He speculated his wife had been acting under extreme depression and duress when she buried her mother in the backyard.

The Hodges have both been charged with felony marijuana trafficking in the past, admitted Marvin Hodges. But he thinks their experience with that charge in Licking County in 2003 highlights the discrepancies in the justice system.

Then both Hodges were convicted of more serious charges, each receiving a third-degree felony. However, they were sentenced much more lightly. They each were sentenced to three years of community control.

“When you compare what happened in one county and what happened in another in the same state, it’s just black and white,” he said.