Man found guilty on weapon charge
WOODSTOCK – A Crystal Lake man whose fiancée testified that she had an affair with his arresting officer was found guilty Wednesday on a weapons charge.
Christopher L. Branham, 44, was facing multiple drug-related felonies, including a Class X, and possession of a firearm by a felon – he was convicted in Kentucky in the the 1990s of drug trafficking.
Branham's two-day bench trial before McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather concluded Wednesday.
Early on in the trial, Branham's fiancée Charity Meyers testified that she developed a relationship with the lead detective in the case, McHenry County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Novak. The two had sex just hours after Branham was arrested, she said.
On April 28, 2010, members of the Narcotics Task Force, including Novak, went to the home that Meyers and Branham share where they found drugs, including morphine, Oxycontin, Darvocet and Xanex that was packaged as if for sale. Authorities also found a shotgun.
Branham testified on Wednesday that he inherited the weapon from his deceased father but didn't know it was at the home – he believed it was in Meyers' father's gun safe.
Meyers said her relationship with Branham was deteriorating when she went to police about removing prescription drugs from their home. She soon developed a relationship with then-detective Novak, that grew increasingly personal.
Novak was demoted from detective to the patrol unit, and suspended for 10 days without pay.
On the witness stand, Meyers said she would be alerted when the detectives planned to visit the home to speak to Branham about the drugs. Once she got notification, she brought the gun from a crawlspace where it was stored, to the closet where police eventually found it.
In his closing argument, Assistant State's Attorney Robert Zalud said Meyers was merely telling a story, one that satisfied the defense.
"Everything they wanted her to answer, she was willing to answer," Zalud said. "If they asked her who killed Nicole Brown Simpson, she would have admitted to it."
Prather agreed, saying Meyers wasn't a credible witness.
"The court can't place any weight in the testimony of Charity Meyers," Prather said.
Branham initially was charged with possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver, a Class X felony. But after the state rested on Tuesday, Prather ruled that prosecutors had not sufficiently proved their case, instead allowing Branham to plead guilty to a lesser drug charge – possession of less than 5 grams of morphine, a Class 4 felony.
A forensic expert testified Tuesday that she had to test the evidence multiple times to find traces of morphine.
Outside the courtroom, Hofmann said he believed his client was overcharged.
"How can you say it's possession with the intent to deliver with an immeasurable amount of morphine molecules."
Branham is set for sentencing on Aug. 29.