A 23-year-old Okawville man will serve 18 months in prison for lying to police during an investigation into an Ashley teen’s overdose death, despite his defense attorney maintaining they still don’t know what specifically he lied about.
Shane R. Lindsay received the sentence Thursday in Circuit Court in Washington County. Lindsay was found guilty of obstructing police after a six-day jury trial in August. He will begin serving his sentence after an additional hearing Nov. 21.
On Thursday, Lindsay addressed Dakota Ellerbusch’s grandfather, John Ellerbusch, in court.
“I would like to tell John Ellerbusch that I’m sorry for what happened to Dakota that night,” he said. “Dakota was a good friend of mine, and I would do anything to take that night back.”
Lindsay’s public defender, Dennis Hatch, had filed several motions, arguing the obstruction charge against Lindsay was not specific enough for a jury to determine his guilt.
The lack of specificity, he said, denied Lindsay a chance to prepare a proper defense.
“I still don’t know as I sit here and argue to you — what has he done?” Hatch said in court, saying the prosecution has never specifically pointed to a detail or specific statement that was intentionally false.
Washington County State’s Attorney Daniel Bronke said the state had met its burden in the wording and proof of the charge. He said Lindsay may not like the outcome, but the prosecution had met all legal standards.
“‘The defendant didn’t like it’ isn’t an argument,” Bronke said.
Judge Daniel Emge denied Hatch’s motions.
“It was apparent through those different (police) interviews ... that Mr. Lindsay’s story changed multiple times in many aspects,” the judge said.
Emge, in handing down the sentence, noted the opioid epidemic is a serious issue in Washington County and across the country.
He said overdoses go unreported “all the time” because people are afraid of legal consequences.
“Lying to police to cover your own ass, that’s what you did in this situation,” the judge said to Lindsay.
Lying to police to cover your own ass, that’s what you did in this situation.
Judge Daniel Emge to Shane Lindsay
Emge said he had dealt in the past with Lindsay, who has an 8th-grade education and began drinking at age 12. The judge noted that Lindsay had been uncooperative in other cases.
Shane Lindsay’s father, Jacob Lindsay, testified Thursday on his son’s behavior since being released from jail in August.
“He’s my son again; he’s off the drugs,” he said. “He doesn’t do anything, and he doesn’t go out. His behavior is way different, he’s not a smart aleck and he doesn’t think he knows everything now.”
Emge, however, felt a prison sentence was necessary to deter others and acknowledge the severity of the situation. Lindsay faced between one and six years in prison, partly due to his criminal history. He served 123 days in jail while awaiting trial and will serve one year parole after his prison time.
Before the sentence was imposed, Hatch noted in court that he believed justice for Ellerbusch would be to convict the woman who provided the fentanyl-laced methadone to him.
After the hearing, John Ellerbusch reacted to the sentence.
“At least there’s a sentence,” he said. “There’s got to be some accountability. The whole thing would have been resolved if he had done the right thing in the moment. It was pure negligence.”
Emge also ruled on a motion Thursday filed by Bronke last month regarding Lindsay’s eligibility for a free public defender, who was appointed to represent him when he was charged earlier this year. Lindsay began receiving a monthly annuity of $4,500 on Aug. 1 as part of a settlement in his mother’s death.
“I believe (Bronke) is correct in asserting he can hire his own attorney,” Emge said. “But the problem is ... it’s going to take a new attorney months to get up to speed. I think that’s an unnecessary delay.”
He said after Thursday, Hatch would no longer be appointed as a public defender for Lindsay, and the judge ordered the man to pay the county for his legal representation from Aug. 1 through Thursday. That amount of money will be discussed during the Nov. 21 hearing.
He said Lindsay could hire Hatch or someone else to represent him in the case in any future matters.
John Ellerbusch found the teen’s body in a rural family-owned cabin in the early morning hours of Jan. 1.
During Lindsay’s August jury trial, Emge dismissed three of five charges: drug-induced homicide, unlawful delivery of a controlled substance and involuntary manslaughter.
Bronke argued those charges alleged Lindsay provided the drugs — specifically fentanyl — that caused Ellerbusch’s death. But, earlier in the trial the judge ruled the toxicology report showing Ellerbusch had fentanyl in his system could not be submitted as evidence, leaving those allegations without the support of any physical evidence.
Jurors then found Lindsay guilty of obstructing justice during the investigation but not guilty of his other standing charge: concealing Ellerbusch’s death.
The obstruction count carried the least severe sentence of the charges Lindsay faced.