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Former officer pleads guilty to drug charge

After waiving his right to a grand jury indictment, former Buchtel police chief Kelsie Lanning, Jr., pleaded guilty in the Athens County Court of Common Pleas.

Lanning pleaded guilty to one count of permitting drug abuse, a fifth-degree felony.

Lanning was sentenced to three years of community control and was required to give up peace officer’s licenses by Judge L. Alan Goldsberry.

The charges stemmed from a Feb. 15 incident when Lanning’s girlfriend, Jessica Willison, bought prescription drugs from an undercover informant at Lanning’s residence in Nelsonville.

Lanning was off-duty at the time of the incident and has since resigned as the Butchel Chief of Police.

The Athens County Sheriff’s Office started investigating Lanning after an informant gave the office a tip that Lanning had accompanied Willison to Columbus to buy prescription drugs, said Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn.

On Feb. 15, Lanning never had possession of the drugs but supplied Willison with money and was present when she brought the drugs from the informant, Blackburn said.

Lanning’s lawyer, George Cosenza, said that Willison has a significant drug problem.

Because Lanning has had a long-term relationship with Willison and has a child with her, Blackburn said he could see why he would allow her to buy drugs.

“But, as a police officer, Mr. Lanning is held to a higher standard,” Blackburn said.

Willison has been charged with possession of drugs, trafficking in drugs and deception to obtain a dangerous drug. The case is still pending in common pleas court.

Lanning was sentenced shortly after the court accepted his guilty plea. In terms with the agreement, he will be on community release control for three years, have to forfeit his peace officer’s license, pay a $90 fine and be a law-abiding citizen for three years.

Goldsberry added 80 hours of community service to Lanning’s parole, which must be completed within two years.

Goldsberry said Lanning has the ability to apply for a peace officer’s licenses in another state, but Blackburn said it is unlikely that he will get one with a felony conviction.

If Lanning violates the terms of his parole, he will be sentenced to 11 months in jail. Goldsberry said Lanning’s parole officer has the right to add additional terms to his parole.

“It is quite possible that you will be assessed for substance abuse problems because of you being in a long-term relationship with someone who is,” Goldsberry said.

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