Mother of five sentenced to 11 years resulting from multi-county major drug offender case


Jessica Johnston

Defense Attorney Nicole Churchill becomes emotional during her defendant’s sentencing as she talked about her friendship that has developed with Gartner and states that she’s not a bad person.

By Christine Holmes, News Director

A woman who does not abuse drugs herself was sentenced to 11 years in prison Monday morning after pleading guilty to two first-degree felony counts of trafficking drugs and one first-degree felony of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

According to Muskingum County Assistant Prosecutor John Litle, 41 year-old Janet Gartner of Guernsey County was dealing methamphetamine with her boyfriend, Nicholas Bair, when they caught the attention of officers from the Central Ohio Drug Enforcement Task Force (CODE) in Licking County.

Gartner’s attorney, Nicole Churchill, explained that Gartner has five children and cleaned houses for a living. When she met her co-defendant, Bair, he was loving toward her and her children.

“I don’t believe anyone wakes up and goes ‘you know, I want to sell meth,'” said Churchill.

Churchill added that neither Gartner nor Bair used drugs, but were dealing in order to save up to buy property and send a child to college. The trafficking was supposed to end after that was accomplished.

“They would have had something they’d never had before,” said Churchill while fighting back tears.

Churchill said she considers Gartner as more of a friend than a client.

“I believe her when she says when it was over, it would be over,” said Churchill.

In April, the pair agreed to sell a pound of meth for $6,500 to a person that, unbeknownst to them, was a confidential informant working for the Licking County Prosecutor’s Office.

The deal took place in two transactions over a three-day span at the McDonald’s restaurant in Dresden.

Each time Gartner delivered the drugs to the confidential informant, the transaction was recorded on video and photographed by detectives watching nearby.

She was arrested following the second transaction that completed the arrangement.

Warrants were obtained to search her vehicle on the scene, as well as her shared home with Bair in Guernsey County.

Those searches produced the recovery of more than $165,000, four vehicles, four ATVs, one UTV and a trailer, in addition to narcotics.

The forfeited items will be split evenly between the three counties involved in the investigation, which Litle said required a lot of law enforcement cooperation that went smoothly up until it reached the point of prosecution.

According to Litle, there was a lack of cooperation from the Guernsey County direction.

While trying to coordinate plea agreements with Guernsey County Prosecutor Joel Blue’s office, Litle expressed his frustration, saying there was no communication to a certain amount “despite calls and calls and emails and messages and just considerable amounts of efforts to come up with some kind of resolution on this,” said Litle in court.

Ultimately, the State and defense counsel agreed to recommend an 11 year sentence.

“This case could have been pled to six months and no one in Guernsey County would have had any say as to the outcome,” said Litle.

Judge Mark Fleegle accepted the joint recommendation and imposed a $10,000 fine, as well.

While handing Gartner her sentence, Fleegle told the defendant that her actions kill people and destroy lives.

“That can never be rationalized in my mind,” said Fleegle.

The judge added that it would be easy to fall back on dealing again if she found herself short on money.

Bair is scheduled to enter a plea in two weeks.