Defense lawyer pleads guilty to drug charges

MIAMI COUNTY — On Thursday, a West Chester attorney entered pleas of guilty to four counts of fifth-degree felony possession of drug charges and will spend three years on community control as part of a plea deal with the state.

West Chester criminal defense attorney Lisa Wells, 41, has been incarcerated at the Miami County Incarceration Facility since Oct. 18 on a warrant issued by Miami County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeannine Pratt.

Judge Pratt ordered Wells to serve three years of “no breaks” community control. Wells’ special conditions include GPS monitoring, drug, alcohol and mental health assessments, submit to drug screens, one year of outpatient treatment, attend AA twice a week, enroll in weekly therapy sessions, comply with medication orders, abstain from possession of both drugs and alcohol, report in-person with Miami County Pre-Trial Services once a week, serve 60 hours of community service in Miami County, comply with the Ohio Lawyer’s Assistance Program, and allow officials to conduct searches of her property and her person. If Wells fails to comply with any of the conditions, Judge Pratt reserved 12 months in prison for each felony count.

The hearing began as an in-lieu of conviction hearing to which Wells’ adult parole officer Chris Merrell testified for more than an hour. Court then recessed for another hour and Wells then entered an agreement to plead guilty to three violations of her probation, including failure to comply with the Ohio Lawyer’s Assistance Program, failure to appear in court following her release from an in-patient medical facility when a warrant had been issued and testing positive for marijuana, cocaine and Oxycodone. OLAP provides assistance for lawyers with drug and alcohol abuse and recovery options. The court dismissed the drug-related charges and proceeded with sentencing. Wells pleaded guilty to her original grand jury indictment of four fifth-degree felony possession charges. An Ohio State Highway Patrol officer seized oxycodone, alprazolam (also known as Xanax), amphetamine, and dextroamphetamine during a traffic stop on Jan. 25, 2016.

Wells’ attorney Jeffrey Slyman said, “Addiction is a very, very difficult thing. Lisa is prepared to move on with her life and address this issue.”

Wells’ co-counsel, attorney Jon Saia, assisted in the cross examination of Merrell. Saia entered a motion to withdraw as counsel prior to the proceeding, which the court denied. Saia said Wells fired him on Oct. 31.

Prior to sentencing, speaking through tears, Wells said she apologized to the court.

“I wish I had it together more,” Wells said.

She said she appreciated the court allowing to be with her family again. She also said she was “envious” of Judge Pratt and others who “have their life together.”

Miami County Assistant Prosecutor Paul Watkins remained silent as part of the plea agreement. Wells was granted 25 days of jail credit.

Prior to sentencing, Pratt provided a detailed history of Wells’ case, which has spanned nearly four years. She noted Wells had been granted ILC twice during that time period as well as at least seven continuances for Wells’ case. Pratt said Wells had several opportunities to complete her ILC conditions and the court had been “more than fair and more than understanding of her drug addiction.”

Pratt said Wells and her case had been difficult and the court had “bent over backwards to get her to the finish line.” Pratt noted since Wells was a criminal defense attorney, she knew what was expected of her more than the average defendant on ILC. She also noted Wells failed to complete “the basics things asked of her.”

“The court takes no pleasure in any of this,” said Pratt, adding that Wells, and Wells alone, needed to stay clean and maintain a sober lifestyle.

“She is the sole person who is accountable in this position,” Pratt said.

An Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper conducted a traffic stop on Wells on Jan. 25, 2016, on Interstate 75 near Piqua for expired registration. According to court records, the trooper also noted that Wells was weaving in her lane and even crossing the lines on each side of her lane. The trooper reportedly saw pills in plain view before searching the vehicle. The trooper seized oxycodone, alprazolam (also known as Xanax), amphetamine, and dextroamphetamine.