Judge Rocky Coss
Judge Rocky Coss

Highland County Common Pleas Court Judge Rocky Coss partially granted and partially overruled a motion to dismiss after an attorney argued that charges of corrupting another with drugs were “invalid” because his client was pregnant at the time of the crime, and the victim in the case was not a “person.”

Astasia Clemons, of Leesburg, was indicted in January on two counts of corrupting another with drugs, felonies of the second degree, after it was alleged that she took drugs while she was pregnant.

Her attorney, Conrad Curren, filed a motion to dismiss the charges on March 29. Curren stated in the motion that Clemons had taken marijuana during her pregnancy and Percocet the day before she gave birth.

Curren wrote, “However, the charge is not valid because (the Ohio statute) states, ‘no person shall ... administer or cause another person to use a controlled substance.’”

He argued that “person” was not specifically defined in this case as an unborn fetus.

“When someone or something (other) than another person is meant, the statutes state that, for example, ‘parent, child, minor, juvenile, farm animal, doctor,’ and so on, are specifically stated in the applicable
corresponding statutes,” Curren wrote. “Nowhere in the statute is the fetus or ‘unborn child’ mentioned as it is in the domestic violence and assault statutes, for example. It is clear that if the statute had been referring to
the unborn child, it would be stated within it.”

Highland County Prosecutor Anneka Collins argued that the statute regarding corrupting another with drugs states that it is “by any means, to administer or to furnish to another or induce or cause another to use a controlled substance with purpose to cause serious physical harm to the other person, or with purpose to cause the other person to become drug dependent,” and that the definition of “another” could be applied as the
definition of “person.”

Coss said that they could find no definition of “another” and so he felt the best course was “to apply common sense” to the situation, and that a “person” is defined as “an unborn human who is viable,” so the definition of
“another” could be the same as “a person.”

Coss ruled in favor of the state and upheld the first count.

Curren had written in the motion that, according to case law, “a person does not become a parent until the child is born, and the fetus does not become a child until it is born ...

“The Legislative intent ... was to keep others from supplying drugs to (mostly) [parenthesis are Curren’s] minors ... not to punish women who are drug addicts in a brand new way. While the state’s zeal in ‘protecting’ the unborn and punishing the mothers may be commendable in one’s personal convictions, it is far overreaching in the circumstances before this court. The statute does not address unborn fetuses, it is not intended to do so, and this charge must be dismissed.”

On the second charge, Coss said that was “more problematic,” and that he was not certain if the results of the way the statute is written were the actual intention of the Legislature. Coss said he would “not refer to the
Legislature’s ‘infinite wisdom’ because the Legislature’s wisdom is finite. And in my experience, it has been very finite.”

In the second count, Coss said there was an exception in that statute that specified that it was to not be applied to pregnant women.

“I have no choice but to dismiss count two,” Coss said.

Clemons is scheduled to stand trial on Monday, but a final pretrial hearing has been scheduled for 9 a.m. on Friday.

Collins said that Coss’ ruling upholding the first charge was a win for victims, in this case and in future cases.

“This sets a precedent, Collins said. “Judge Coss has made his ruling, and now we don’t have to argue it again going forward.”