A brief glimpse into Billy Conn's life timeline and criminal history in Indiana barely scratches the surface of what else there is to tell about Conn. Conn had several other stories about growing up that would break the heart of those who took time to listen, but many I felt were too personal to be shared for the first time in a newspaper. In Indiana, Conn's criminal history is only a snapshot of his criminal history and did not include the similar charges he received in Ohio or Kentucky.
The outcome of Conn's life story would be the ideal topic for a debate. It seems there are two defined sides to this story, Billy Conn Jr, a victim of his circumstance, and Billy Conn Jr, the habitual criminal.
One side could argue Conn was never taught any different. He was simply a product of his environment and, without outside intervention, never really had a chance at a productive life. Evidence could be provided to support the theory:
Conn is a third-generation “criminal” and carried a criminal's reputation long before his criminal history began. To most in the community, Conn was a lost cause. As I reached out to adults who knew the young Billy, most admitted they felt Billy was a lost cause, and although no one was happy about it, what could be done about it? Billy had a father that carried a notorious name, too, and even looking back, many believed a phone call to his father probably wouldn't have helped much. Conn was willing to justify why many thought he was a lost cause and didn't try to step in. I remember how sad I felt when I read his words after asking him if there was ever someone who pulled him aside and said, “Hey, you're better than this, and you can be better than this.” Conn's response was simple, “They stayed in their lane, and I stayed in mine.”
Conn's environment was full of drugs and alcohol since the age of four or five. Smoking marijuana became as normal to Conn as having a social drink with friends. When Conn was sharing his timeline, he alludes to how normal it was with justifications like, “It was only pot at that time.” Conn was also exposed to drugs at his mother's house when his stepfather became an abusive drug addict. A pattern of using defense as Billy's best offensive weapon began.
Interestingly, in 2016 researchers from Harvard Medical School announced new findings that children whose parents (or caregivers) abuse alcohol or use, produce, or distribute drugs – face significantly higher risks of medical and behavioral problems, including substance abuse. Thanks to the continued studies on the effects on children like Billy, researchers found that pediatricians are unique to assess substance abuse risk and intervene to protect children. The hope is those types of interventions could break the multigenerational cycle of addiction.
In “Pediatrics,” the American Academy of Pediatrics’ official journal, it contains a clinical report regarding families affected by parental substance use and had this to say regarding pediatric intervention.
“Pediatricians who help identify substance use problems in a child's family members are not expected to solve, manage, or treat these problems; rather, they can assist families by working in partnership with other professionals to provide access to state, regional, and local resources available to families. Being familiar with effective harm reduction strategies and being prepared to inform public debate on how to use evidence-based strategies to protect and advocate for children whose parents have SUDs are important roles that the pediatrician can assume.”
Conn's dad signed Conn out of school, claiming homeschooling would replace Conn's schooling at Franklin County High School. Dropping out of high school statistically made Conn ineligible for 90 percent of jobs in America, according to DoSomething.org. Conn did receive his GED while serving a jail sentence in 2002.
Conn's prison sentence will leave his children fatherless throughout childhood and a good portion of their adult life.
Conn lacked treatment throughout his criminal history. Probation and jail time were the significant components to curtail Conn's behavior.
In some ways, the other side of Conn's debate has already been done when he appealed his 50-year prison sentence-by the discussion recorded from the appellate court regarding Conn's case. The state was able to argue their case and a portion of the court's discussion is below. To read the discussion in its entirety, visit MyCase, complete a search of Billy Conn Jr, and the Memorandum Decision will be available in full under the appealed case.
“The State argues that Conn's sentence is not inappropriate in light of his transportation of over 582 grams of methamphetamine over state lines, his involvement in a large-scale drug operation, and his significant criminal history.”
“The PSI indicates that Conn previously described his mental health as 'good with no problems or medications reported.' With respect to his family, the PSI indicates that Conn reported that he had a good childhood and that his father was incarcerated for at least twelve years.”
As an adult, Conn was charged in 2002 with possession of a controlled substance as a class D felony and possession of marijuana as a class A misdemeanor and found guilty in 2005. In 2003, he was charged in Kentucky with unlawful possession of meth precursor and complicity to receiving stolen property and was sentenced to two years in 2010.4 That same year, Conn was charged in Ohio with Count I, trafficking, Count II, possession of a controlled substance, Count III, carrying a concealed weapon, and Count IV, possession of criminal tools. Counts I, II, and IV were “[n]ollied by the Court – no probable cause found,” and Count III was “ignored by grand jury.”
That same year, Conn was convicted in Ohio of possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting arrest. Also in 2003, Conn was charged in Ohio with aggravated possession of drugs, possession of marijuana, illegal use/possession of drug paraphernalia, and illegal manufacture of drugs. The narrative in the PSI indicates he was sentenced to three years for illegal manufacture of drugs and that “all other counts run concurrent to” that offense. Under “Additional Information,” the PSI states: “Originally charged as Manufacture Methamphetamine, 1st Offense then 'amended down'.” In 2007, Conn was convicted in Ohio of illegal manufacture of drugs, trafficking in marijuana, and having weapons while under disability. In 2012, Conn was convicted in Ohio of driving without a valid license. In 2014, Conn was convicted of possession of marijuana as a class D felony, resisting law enforcement as a class D felony, reckless driving as a class B misdemeanor, and possession of cocaine, methamphetamine, or a schedule I or II narcotic drug. In 2015, Conn was convicted of domestic battery as a class A misdemeanor and possession of a controlled substance and more than ten grams of a precursor within 1,000 feet of school property as class C felonies, and was found to be an habitual offender. The PSI states that Conn has a total of fourteen prior felony convictions and ten prior misdemeanor convictions as well as juvenile offenses that include felony adjudications. Conn was on probation for felony drug charges when he committed the current offense. The PSI also provides that Conn's overall risk assessment score using the Indiana Risk Assessment System places him in the high risk to reoffend category.”
The reasoning above and more (Including Billy's statements regarding why his sentence was inappropriate) resulted in the court's decision:
“After due consideration and in light of his lengthy criminal history and the significant amount of methamphetamine in his possession, we conclude that Conn has not sustained his burden of establishing that his sentence is inappropriate in light of the nature of the offense and his character. For the foregoing reasons, we affirm Conn's sentence. Affirmed. Vaidik, J., and Pyle, J., concur.”
In a sense, Conn's criminal history won the debate, meaning Conn will continue trying to find hope in a dark place while living the consequences of his actions.
“I wish i could express to you how much all of this has changed my life here lately. I know it would seem little, on the contrary it has been very major. I know i am still in prison and i still have fifty years to go. I still have the day to day prison politics to deal with. All of that. I am in a much better place in my mind. This may all be temporary. I dont know. Somehow you have given me hope that i cant explain. I have always thought of hope as dangerous. It can ruin a mans mind in a place like this with a sentence that i cant live to make it through. When appeals get dismissed and chances of making it out alive someday get smaller and smaller. The walls tend to close in on ya. Somehow even if only for a moment i can see past these walls.”