CLEARFIELD – Jurors deliberated for approximately one hour Tuesday before finding a DuBois man guilty of producing methamphetamine at his residence. Clearfield County President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman presided over the trial.
Steven F. Sunealitis, 53, of DuBois was found guilty on all charges, which include deposits, stores or disposes of chemical waste; manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver; intentional possession of a controlled substance by a person not registered; and use/possession of drug paraphernalia.
Jurors also determined that Sunealitis had produced more than 100 grams of a mixture or compound that contained methamphetamine. During their deliberations, jurors had one question at approximately 11:08 a.m. regarding this determination and requested further explanation.
Ammerman presented the request to counsel before bringing in members of the jury. He explained that he didn’t have any further explanation to provide about the determination of the aggregate weight. Counsel decided the best way to proceed was to have Ammerman re-read the definition, which he did. Jurors then returned with their verdict at approximately 11:27 a.m.
Sunealitis is likely to face a minimum of eight years of incarceration. However, his sentence will be up to the judge, said District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. He explained that jurors were asked to determine an aggregate weight related to the manufacture of methamphetamine due to this being Sunealitis’ second offense for a methamphetamine lab.
Additionally, he explained that a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling now places the task on jurors to determine the aggregate weight as part of the “facts” presented in drug cases. He said it’s been in effect since the ruling in the Alleyne case in June or July of 2013.
So far as the trial, Shaw was very pleased with the verdict and the overall police investigation. He said multiple police agencies worked together to investigate and neutralize a methamphetamine lab without anyone – police, fire or emergency personnel – sustaining any injuries.
During his closing, defense attorney Curtis Irwin reminded jurors that Sunealitis wasn’t disputing the charges. Sunealitis, he said, admitted to state parole agents and police at the scene May 13, 2013 and again to jurors yesterday that he produced methamphetamine.
However, he said they wanted to dispute the capacity of Sunealitis’ methamphetamine lab. He argued that the commonwealth wanted the jury to believe Sunealitis had produced more than 100 grams of methamphetamine, which he said was “ridiculous” and “against common sense.”
Irwin told jurors that the commonwealth would focus on the Gatorade bottle containing a mixture or compound with methamphetamine in it. He said the commonwealth wanted them to believe there was 288 grams of methamphetamine in that bottle when in fact it was a waste product with some leftover methamphetamine in it.
During his closing, Shaw countered by saying that the commonwealth wasn’t tasked with proving Sunealitis had produced more than 100 grams of pure methamphetamine. Instead, the commonwealth, Shaw said, must prove that a compound or mixture, which contained methamphetamine, weighed more than 100 grams.
Shaw pointed out that during the search, state police found a Gatorade bottle containing a mixture with methamphetamine in it. The weight of that mixture, he said, was 288 grams. Shaw said if Sunealitis was only producing a small amount, there wouldn’t have been a large amount of waste product.
“He (Sunealitis) wants to come in here and tell you this story that he should only be in trouble just a little bit,” said Shaw.