In November of 2017, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine was in Columbiana County for 100 people charged after Operation Big Oak — the largest drug-related roundup of dealers and users in county history. Fourteen months later, some of them still haven’t been tried — or even arrested.
At the time, Lt. Brian McLaughlin, commander of the Columbiana County Drug Task Force, said he was “very pleased with the outcome” of the case aimed at reducing the sale and use of fentanyl and carfentanil in the county.
“There’s still many of the defendants pending in court,” he said.
McLaughlin said of the 100 indicted, about ten still haven’t been found.
“So that’s not too bad when you’re talking that many people.”
On the original suspect chart were the Jacksons of Cleveland — three brothers and an uncle — considered the ringleaders.
Anthony Jackson remains at large.
Allen Jackson’s trial starts March 5, Jermaine Jackson was scheduled to be sentenced but never showed up in court and Tremaine Jackson is in prison for something else.
According to a story this week from our print partner, The Morning Journal, only 15 of the cases that were part of Operation Big Oak have resulted in sentences of prison time. In the next three months, there are 16 trials scheduled and seven sentencings.
Of the 100 indictments, McLaughlin says 35 were considered major players and 30 percent of those cases have been closed.
Many suspects are still working their way through the courts.
“The court system takes time,” McLaughlin said. “That was a large caseload. We only have two common pleas court judges that are handling these cases and they were actually assigned to one courtroom. So it was a lot for the court to handle, so it will take some time to get through them but we’ll get there.”
Some may never go to trial because the suspects were drug users, not dealers. The users will be rehabilitated, not convicted.
“If we reduce the demand side, that’s also going to help us out with the enforcement side, too,” McLaughlin said.
The number of drug overdose deaths went from 41 in 2017 to 26 last year.
While McLaughlin says Operation Big Oak was successful in slowing the flow of fentanyl and carfentanil, he’s now seeing more crystal meth from Mexico coming into Columbiana County.