Prank leads to drug bust, jail time

A Reynoldsburg man who was caught hiding meth in a cigarette pack after pulling a prank in a Belpre fast food drive-thru was sentenced Friday in Washington County Common Pleas Court to spend the next 24 weekends in jail.

Russell E. Babb, 35, of 8555 East Main St., pleaded guilty as charged Jan. 22 to the fifth-degree felony drug possession charge.

Babb and a car full of others were going through the Hardee’s drive-thru in Belpre on April 21 when Babb, a passenger in the vehicle, decided to get out of the car and hop on a bicycle belonging to the restaurant’s manager, said Washington County Assistant Prosecutor Jared Erb.

“He took an employee’s bike and was being stupid about it, riding around drunk,” said Erb. “That’s their mode of transportation to work. You wouldn’t hop in someone’s car and joke around.”

The employee called police. Though Babb had left the scene, he was able to describe the vehicle Babb left in.

Shortly thereafter, Belpre City Police stopped the car.

Babb told the officers he did not have any contraband, but when he was searched officers found a small plastic bag with a white, crystal-like substance hidden in Babb’s cigarette pack. When pressed by officers to identify the substance, he admitted that it was meth.

Babb told Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Randall Burnworth that he is working to address his drug habit.

“I do have myself in all kinds of counseling right now,” he said. “I’m trying to change my life.”

Babb was to be sentenced according to an agreed disposition, said Burnworth before ordering a 90-day jail sentence.

However, Erb quickly pointed out that the agreement had previously been amended to 60 days.

Babb’s attorney Joe Brockwell added that his client’s sentence was also supposed to be served intermittently.

“Mr. Babb is a longtime employee at Lang Masonry,” he explained.

The shorter sentence and weekend jail stays were agreed to so Babb could continue working, he said.

Re-adjusting for the previously agreed upon 60-day sentence, Burnworth calculated that Babb would need to spend the next 24 weekends in the Washington County Jail – entering Friday evenings and being released Monday mornings.

“They are only two-and-a-half day stays,” he noted.

Burnworth reminded Babb that the jail charges a fee for those choosing weekend-only stays, which Babb agreed was fine.

Burnworth also sentenced Babb to three years of community control. A violation of the probation terms would likely mean he is sent to prison for the full one-year maximum, he said.