July 25, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Ex-teacher’s husband pleads not guilty to growing pot

MEDINA — The 33-year-old husband of a former Claggett Middle School math teacher pleaded not guilty Thursday to growing marijuana in the couple’s home.

Vito Asaro, of 8453 Spieth Road, Litchfield Township, is charged with illegally cultivating marijuana and trafficking in the drug. The charges are fifth-degree felonies punishable by up to a year in prison each.

Vito Asaro

Katie Hill-Asaro

His trial is set for Nov. 19 before Medina County Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler.

Asaro’s wife, 27-year-old Katie Hill-Asaro, is expected to enter a plea next week on a charge of permitting drug abuse, also a fifth-degree felony.

She’s accused of allowing her husband to grow and sell marijuana.

Hill-Asaro resigned from her position at the middle school Sept. 13.

County Drug Task Force Director Gary Hubbard said last week that an undercover agent bought marijuana from Asaro in his Litchfield home July 24.

Task force agents searched the home Aug. 14 and found 28 plants on the 4-acre property, they reported.

Hill-Asaro began teaching eighth-grade math at Claggett in 2009, was laid off at the end of the last school year and rehired this year.

She and her husband are free on bond.

This is the second time in a year that a Medina middle school teacher was charged with crimes related to marijuana cultivation.

In January, A.I. Root Middle School teacher Shannon Briggs pleaded no contest to misdemeanor drug charges in Elyria Municipal Court. She was fined $500, placed on probation for a year, given suspended jail time and ordered to undergo substance abuse treatment.

Her husband, Matthew Briggs, was charged with felony marijuana cultivation. His case is pending in Lorain County Common Pleas Court.

Daniel Gibbons

Also Thursday, Kimbler sentenced a 22-year-old Willoughby man, who’s already in prison, to another year for stealing a car from a Medina Township car lot in December.

Daniel J. Gibbons was convicted of attempted grand theft auto and breaking and entering in July. The charges are fifth-degree felonies.
He was accused of breaking into Medina Auto Brokers, 4160 Pearl Road, and stealing a 2000 Plymouth Voyager.

Gibbons’ attorney, John Quillin, said his client’s current prison sentence was the result of Lake County officials catching him with the stolen Voyager.

County Assistant Prosecutor Matt Razavi recommended the judge give Gibbons an additional nine months in prison.

Quillin disagreed.

“The vehicle from this case is from the same event,” Quillin said. “He’s already being punished for it.”

He asked the judge to consider the circumstances when sentencing his client.

Kimbler said Quillin’s argument made sense and sentenced Gibbons to another year in prison to run concurrently with the Lake County term. Two months before the car lot break-in occurred, Gibbons had just been released from prison, where he was held on a burglary case out of Cuyahoga County.

Prior to that, Gibbons admitted to a theft from Buckeye Junior High School, 3024 Columbia Road, York Township, on Halloween night. In that case, he was sentenced to 10 months in prison, which pushed back his Lake County sentence about a month.

“I know my past looks horrible,” Gibbons told the judge. “But I’m trying to change.”

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.

Nick Glunt About Nick Glunt

Nick Glunt primarily covers courts and crime in Medina County. He served The Gazette from September 2012 to December 2015. Contact him at (330) 721-4048 or via email at nglunt@medina-gazette.com.