By CARL E. FEATHER - firstname.lastname@example.org
The two men arrested on Friday at the Blue Dragon in Ashtabula Towne Square on Monday were released on personal recognizance bonds following arraignment in Ashtabula Municipal Court.
Richard K. Leavitt of Ninevah Road, Ashtabula, faces three charges: two counts of complicity to trafficking in drugs, a fourth-degree felony; and trafficking in drugs, a third-degree felony.
Leavitt is the owner of Blue Dragon, where state and law enforcement served a search warrant Friday morning as they sought evidence of the store selling illegal synthetic drugs.
Leavitt’s long-time employee, David A. Nottingham, of Harmon Road, Ashtabula, faced two aggravated trafficking in drugs charges, a fourth-degree felony.
Leavitt was represented by Attorney William Bobulsky, while Nottingham requested a public defender.
The men appeared before Magistrate Jon Field, who set Nottingham’s total bond at $20,000. Leavitt’s bond was set at at a total of $35,000.
Bobulsky told the magistrate that his client, Leavitt, had no prior criminal record, is 65 years old, has been married 28 years, been in business for more than 30 years and was a lifetime resident of the county. Based on all those factors, Leavitt did not represent a flight risk, Bobulsky stated.
“They are good guys,” said Leavitt’s wife as she and Nottingham’s wife left the courtroom Monday morning. Both women expressed complete surprise at the bust that brought Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), Ashtabula City Police, Ashtabula County Sheriff and Trumbull Ashtabula Group officers to the store Friday morning. The officers were looking for cannabinoids, a class of synthetic drugs that became illegal last fall with passage of H.B. 344, which closed a loophole that previously allowed sale of the dangerous substances.
The wives, who did not want to be identified by name, said the Blue Dragon has been a mainstay business at the mall for nearly as long as the mail itself has been in business. Leavitt started his business at the mall in a kiosk selling air-brushed T-shirts. As business grew, he committed to increasingly larger spaces and expanded the lines. The store’s current location is in the east wing, where very few shops remain.
Law enforcement closed the shop on Friday, and a civil suit filed by the Ohio Attorney General in Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court seeks to keep the shop closed for a year, claiming that it is a “nuisance.”
The AG’s office on Monday said in an email that is declining to comment on the amount of the drugs that were seized during the search warrant execution on Friday.
Preliminary hearings on the matter have not been scheduled. The case will remain in Ashtabula Municipal Court until bound over to the grand jury.