December 20, 2014

Medina
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Appeals court overturns hefty cocaine conviction

The 9th District Court of Appeals overturned a 33-year-old Columbus woman’s 2012 conviction that led to an 11-year prison sentence for having 2 kilograms of cocaine in the trunk of the vehicle she was driving on Interstate 71.

The appellate judges found the traffic stop that led to Isha S. Harper’s arrest was conducted without reasonable suspicion that she had broken a law. In addition, the judges said Medina County Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler improperly denied a motion to suppress evidence.

Harper was arrested Oct. 19, 2011, by Ohio Highway Patrol Trooper Christopher Ausse while she drove north on I-71 about 8 p.m.

Isha Harper

Isha Harper

Ausse said he stopped Harper for following a tractor-trailer too closely and found she had an outstanding warrant for driving under suspension.

Officers found the cocaine in the trunk of the vehicle Harper was driving, which was owned by her cousin, while taking inventory of its contents before impounding it.

A jury in June 2012 found Harper guilty of cocaine possession, a first-degree felony because of the amount. In addition, the amount of cocaine made her a “major drug offender” and netted her a mandatory 11 years in prison.

In her appeal and an earlier evidence suppression hearing, Harper’s attorneys argued the cocaine was found during an illegal stop and search of the vehicle. The appeals court agreed, finding troopers provided contradictory reasons for pulling Harper over — so the search was illegal too.

Harper has been serving her sentence at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville.

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