Overdose death trial delayed due to COVID-19 concerns

Arnold Satterwhite’s trial in Warren County Common Pleas Court has been delayed until July due to coronavirus concerns.

The electronic monitoring of a Dayton man accused of causing an overdose death in Warren County in December 2018 has been discontinued — and his trial continued — as part of steps taken to protect court employees from COVID-19 infection.

Arnold L. Satterwhite Jr., now 25, of Dayton was scheduled for trial last week on charges of involuntary manslaughter, corrupting another with drugs, trafficking in a fentanyl-related compound, trafficking in cocaine and tampering with evidence. But the spread of coronavirus has postponed most court cases statewide.

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At least one Warren County Common Pleas Court worker has tested positive for the new coronavirus, county officials said.

To limit exposure, court officials have split staff and working hours and taken other steps to limit exposure in the court complex in Lebanon.

“In general, without respect to any case in particular, we are significantly limiting the use of the jail and electronic monitoring during this public health crisis. Maintenance, adjustment and placement of ankle monitors cause our officers to come into close and direct contact with individuals,” Judge Donald Oda II said. “Probation officers and community corrections officers are the court’s first responders. We are doing everything we can in these chaotic times to keep them safe and healthy.”

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Satterwhite, is accused of causing the overdose death of Adam Marlow, 24, of Mason on Dec. 15, 2018.

Marlow’s body was found by his mother.

After the overdose, Mason police used Marlow’s cellphone to communicate with Satterwhite for 13 days, including alleged negotiations of trading a 30-round magazine for drugs. Two detectives confronted him at work in Brookville, three days after Christmas 2018, according to testimony in a suppression hearing.

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Satterwhite is also accused of trying to delete text messages between him and Marlow after fentanyl and cocaine he sold Marlow caused his fatal overdose.

“The defendant had previously sold drugs to this particular victim on numerous occasions,” Assistant County Prosecutor Steven Knippen added at the time of the indictment.

Satterwhite was indicted and arrested, and released on $20,000 bond. An electronic monitoring system was among the conditions of his release.

The case was headed to trial after Oda denied defense efforts to suppress Satterwhite’s statements to police and contest police seizure of his phone.

On March 19, Satterwhite’s trial was continued to late July and the electronic monitoring stopped by Oda.

Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said his office contested the discontinuation of the electronic monitoring.

No further information was available about the probation officer with coronavirus.

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The case came to light during a March 24 meeting of the Warren County Board of Commissioners.

Commissioners Dave Young said the infected officer hadn’t been to work for five days before the positive result. Young and Commissioner Tom Grossmann emphasized the deep cleaning since done to court offices and other county facilities in the complex.

Afterward Clerk of Courts Jim Spaeth said he learned of the case the weekend before. The misdemeanor county court held court, as officials balanced pressing legal business with exposure concerns on March 24.

The court building where Satterwhite’s trial is to be held is open with restrictions from 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday-Friday.

Satterwhite faces a mandatory prison term if convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

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Lawyer Anthony VanNoy said the trial needed to be continued “with what’s happening globally, this pandemic.”

The jury selection process requires a large number of people to be questioned by the lawyers and judge.

“It could be dangerous to prospective jurors,” VanNoy said, also emphasizing the importance of the jury being able to concentrate on evidence in the case.

Satterwhite has earned release from the electronic monitoring by complying with court orders, VanNoy added.

“He’s done everything he’s supposed to do,” VanNoy said.

The lawyer looked ahead to when the restrictions are lifted.

“We will have justice. There will be trials,” VanNoy added.

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