Prosecutor's Secretary - Drug Charges

Presented By

Bonnie M. Wells

County Prosecutor's Former Secretary, Her Husband,

Take Plea Bargain In Drug Case


Messenger staff writer

A plea bargain has been reached in the felony drug cases of the Athens County prosecutor’s former secretary and her husband.

Connie Zwahlen and her husband, Hans Zwahlen, pleaded guilty in Athens County Common Pleas Court to lesser charges in exchange for Special Prosecutor Michael Spahr recommending much lower sentences than they might have been given had they been convicted of the original charges.

The two have different lawyers, but their cases were recently joined. Connie Zwahlen was employed at the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office at the time of the incident. Spahr, a former Washington County prosecutor, was appointed in the case due to the conflict of interests.

Hans Zwahlen pleaded guilty last week to cultivation of marijuana, and Connie Zwahlen pleaded guilty to complicity to cultivation. Trafficking charges against Connie Zwahlen were dismissed.

Spahr recommended community control probation and 30 days incarceration for Connie Zwahlen and recommended that Hans Zwahlen be enrolled in the Southeastern Probation Treatment Alternative Center program, a six-month community residential corrections program in Nelsonville for non-violent offenders.

Had they been convicted of all the charges brought against them, Spahr said, Hans Zwahlen could have faced up to 10 years in prison and his wife would have faced up to 15. However, for first offenses, Spahr said it is unlikely that would have happened.

Judge Michael Ward ordered a pre-sentencing investigation and will make the final decision on sentencing at a later hearing. Spahr said Athens County Prosecutor C. David Warren was aware of the plea bargain terms, but did not have input. Spahr said it was also discussed with the officers who investigated the Zwahlens and, according to Spahr, they agreed to the terms.

Judge Ward recently denied several motions to suppress evidence made by the couple’s respective attorneys. He did not rule on one motion arguing that Connie Zwahlen’s alleged confession that she gave Percocet pills to Jason Rhodes of Athens was inadmissible, because Ward said it was an issue to be dealt with at trial, not a pre-trial issue. Her lawyer, Steve Story of Pomeroy, had argued that officers had no evidence of the Percocet transaction outside of the alleged confession. Story argued that in Ohio, there must be some additional evidence to admit the confession as evidence. Story argued the state does not have the pills, or an eyewitness testimony or statement from Rhodes, and will never have such evidence.

Rhodes’ trial is set for Oct. 23 in Washington County, Spahr said.

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Bonnie M. Wells