Man’s third trial nets conviction

WARREN — A Warren man was found guilty Thursday by a Trumbull County jury of possession of crack cocaine.

The third trial for Vincent A. Croff, 33, 185 Beechwood St. NE, ended with a verdict, something that two previous juries who heard the case could not do. Twice in July, Common Pleas Judge Peter Kontos had to declare mistrials.

The current jury of seven men and five women deliberated for almost five hours, coming to a decision shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday.

Kontos scheduled sentencing Nov. 28 after the probation department completes a background report on Croff, who could face up to a year in prison. Croff, who had posted bond, was allowed to continue on the house arrest he was ordered to undergo in an unrelated federal case.

Both attorneys in the case lauded the work of the jury.

“The jury put a lot of time into this one.  I am happy they agreed with the facts in this case,” said assistant prosecutor Charles Morrow.

Croff’s attorney, David Engler, asked that each individual juror be polled for a guilty verdict.

“It took two trials and a third one that went a long way,” Engler said. “The jury has spoken.”

The case against Croff centered on a Feb. 11, 2015, early morning traffic stop on Scott Street NE, in which Croff fled from his vehicle after a police officer said he wanted to search it.

Two police officers testified that a bag of crack cocaine was found in the yard near where Croff eventually surrendered to police.

In all three trials, Croff took the stand in his own defense, denying that the drugs were his.

The centerpiece of Morrow’s case was a video from the police cruiser’s dashboard camera,  according to Morrow, that apparently showed Croff reaching in his pocket during the police chase. “The video had to be the key piece of evidence for the jury,” Morrow said.

Morrow said the first trial ended with a jury voting 11-1 favoring guilt, while the second ended in a 10-2 deadlock. In Ohio, juries must be unanimous for a felony conviction.