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As jury deliberates, defendant vacates court

YOUNGSTOWN — It’s possible Rufus W. Barnett did not think his trial had gone well Wednesday afternoon in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

After closing arguments, the jury began to deliberate late Wednesday on charges of fentanyl trafficking, fentanyl possession and tampering with evidence.

Barnett, 30, of West Boulevard, Boardman, had been present throughout the trial but was not in custody because he was free on bond. So while the jury deliberated, Barnett went outside for a smoke. When the jury came back with its verdicts around 6 p.m., Barnett was gone.

The jury went forward with delivering the verdicts to Judge Anthony D’Apolito without Barnett, and found Barnett guilty of fentanyl possession, tampering with evidence and a specification that the amount of fentanyl involved exceeded 100 grams. The jury found Barnett not guilty of fentanyl trafficking.

D’Apolito then issued a warrant for Barnett’s arrest, and the U.S. Marshal’s Service began searching for him Thursday to take him into custody. U.S. Marshal Peter Elliott of the Northern District of Ohio said late Thursday that Barnett was still at large.

Joe Maxin, one of the two assistant prosecutors working on the case, said this is the first time this type of disappearance has occurred in any of his cases.

He said he didn’t know yet whether Barnett’s disappearance will result in additional charges.

Barnett and Miguel Gibbs, 64, of Market Street, were both charged after Boardman police conducted surveillance at two Boardman homes in response to a tip about drug dealing.

On Jan. 22, 2019, officers went to one of the homes and saw Barnett coming down the stairs with white powder on his shoulders. They searched other parts of the home and found white powder on the floor in a bathroom as well as other evidence in other parts of the home.

Officers collected water from the toilet and had it analyzed by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. It showed the water had fentanyl in it. The amount of fentanyl was 890 grams, which is about two pounds, according to a police report.

Barnett’s convictions could result in him getting more than 10 years in prison.

erunyan@tribtoday.com

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