A jury deliberated Thursday about 1 1/2 hours before finding a former Norwalk man guilty of selling two balloons of heroin to a confidential informant, a man who introduced him to the drug.
Informant Matthew Fortner, 21, testified he went to the Bouscay Avenue duplex of Ryan J. Justice, 27, now of 1244 Greenfield Drive, Willard, to purchase the heroin April 13, 2006 after setting up the controlled buy with two Norwalk police detectives.
Justice said he was not a heroin addict until he met Fortner about December 2005. He further testified that Fortner helped him shoot up for the first month, didn't charge him anything and they later regularly went to Toledo after Justice was paid to meet Fortner's source to get heroin.
"(Fortner) called me and wanted the dope we just got," Justice said about the April 2006 incident. "Matt was my connection."
Justice, when questioned by Huron County Assistant Prosecutor Richard Woodruff, declined repeatedly to confirm it was his voice on a digital recording of the transaction. Fortner earlier had identified Justice as the person who said he wanted "hook up" Fortner and another man with drugs.
"It doesn't sound nothing like me," Justice said. "I don't know if it's me. I couldn't hear the tape."
The suspect also told Woodruff he didn't protest the drug buy happening in his home, adding: "Why would I say no?"
Before the transaction, Detective Sgt. Todd Temple made an agreement with Fortner to buy heroin from nine different people in exchange for not being charged. Temple testified that the informant made six purchases.
"Everybody's been convicted, except Mr. Justice," the detective said.
Fortner told Temple he "didn't have enough fingers and toes" to count how many people bought heroin from him and was surprised police had not arrested him by the time they met in early 2006, Temple testified.
The informant said he used about five balloons of heroin on "a good day" and typically paid about $20 for each dose. He also testified it is common for heroin addicts to sell the drug to support their habit.
Fortner was sentenced Oct. 24 to three years of probation, was fined $500 and ordered to pay $240 in restitution to the Norwalk Police Department for one count of trafficking in heroin. He said he was released March 20 from a community-based corrections facility a form of prison focusing on education and substance abuse treatment and had a clean drug screen Wednesday with his probation officer.
Defense attorney Reese Wineman called Fortner a "big dealer" whom police used to go after "the little fish," like Justice, who was convicted of one count of trafficking in heroin. He will be sentenced July 11.