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State v. Ralston

December 8, 2008

STATE OF OHIO APPELLEE
v.
CHARLES L. RALSTON APPELLANT



APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF LORAIN, OHIO CASE No. 06CR070965.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dickinson, Judge.

DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

INTRODUCTION

{¶1} Charles Ralston was convicted of raping his co-worker at the French Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in North Ridgeville. During a bench trial, Mr. Ralston admitted that the two had sexual intercourse during their shift that night, but claimed it was consensual. The trial court convicted him and sentenced him to four years in prison on the rape charge and a concurrent year for one count of gross sexual imposition. Mr. Ralston was classified under the Adam Walsh Act as a Tier III sex offender. Mr. Ralston has appealed, arguing that: (1) his convictions are not supported by sufficient evidence; (2) his convictions are against the manifest weight of the evidence; (3) the indictment was fatally defective because it failed to charge a mens rea for either crime; and (4) the trial court incorrectly applied the Adam Walsh Act retroactively. This Court affirms because: (1) his convictions are supported by sufficient evidence; (2) his convictions are not against the manifest weight of the evidence; (3) the indictment was not defective; and (4) Mr. Ralston failed to demonstrate plain error in the trial court's retroactive application of the Adam Walsh Act.

BACKGROUND

{¶2} During the summer of 2006, Mr. Ralston and his co-worker were the only two plant employees working the 4:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. shift. According to them, the co-worker picked Mr. Ralston up at his home on June 2, 2006, as she always did before their shift. On the way to the plant, the two stopped to buy beer: a six-pack of Heineken for her and Bud Lite for him. They agree the Heineken was to pay her back for driving him to and from work each day. After everyone else left the plant, Mr. Ralston returned to the truck and brought the beer inside. At that point, the testimony begins to differ.

{¶3} Mr. Ralston's co-worker testified that, after drinking a number of beers, Mr. Ralston asked why she was always so nervous around him and started kissing her. According to her, he grabbed her arms and told her to lie down. She testified that she told him to stop, that he was hurting her, and that she didn't want to do it, but he proceeded to vaginally rape her. She testified that he had difficulty "jam[ming] it in" and asked her what the problem was. According to her, she rarely engages in sexual intercourse because she has a medical condition that makes it painful and difficult.

{¶4} Both parties agree that, afterward, Mr. Ralston made a comment about her getting an abortion if she were to become pregnant. Mr. Ralston admitted that, when she responded that she didn't believe in abortion for birth control, he commented that, if she got pregnant, she might "end up in an accident on the road." He claimed that he was only joking, but the comment caused his co-worker to "flip[ ] out and los[e] it." He claimed that, after that, he unsuccessfully tried to get her to calm down so that they would not lose their jobs.

{¶5} According to the co-worker, when she said she would not have an abortion and tried to use a telephone to call for help, Mr. Ralston became violent, ripping the phone out of her hand and grabbing her by the hair and throat to push her to the floor in the instrumentation room. She testified that he threw her against a fan, breaking its face off. She further testified that, when she was finally able to break free, she positioned herself where she would be seen by security cameras so that he would not touch her again. She then walked out the front door and down to the street, where she flagged down an off-duty police officer.

{¶6} That officer testified that he found the woman staggering around in the road, clearly in distress. Other officers who arrived shortly thereafter described her as very emotional, crying, screaming, and completely unable to talk in a normal tone of voice. Police testified that the instrumentation room at the plant was found in disarray, with papers and debris scattered across the floor and empty beer cartons in the trash.

SUFFICIENCY

{¶7} The first part of Mr. Ralston's first assignment of error is that his convictions are not supported by sufficient evidence. Whether a conviction is supported by sufficient evidence is a question of law that this Court reviews de novo. State v. Thompkins, 78 Ohio St. 3d 380, 386 (1997); State v. West, 9th Dist. No. 04CA008554, 2005-Ohio-990, at ¶33. This Court must determine whether, viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, it would have convinced an average fact finder of Mr. Ralston's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Jenks, 61 Ohio St. 3d 259, paragraph two of the syllabus (1991).

{¶8} Mr. Ralston was convicted of violating Sections 2907.02(A)(2) and 2907.05(A)(1) of the Ohio Revised Code. Section 2907.02(A)(2) provides that "[n]o person shall engage in sexual conduct with another when the offender purposely compels the other person to submit by force or threat of force." Under Section 2907.05(A)(1), "[n]o person shall have sexual contact with another, not the spouse of the offender . . . when . . . [he] purposely compels the other person . . . to submit by force or threat of force." In support of this assignment of error, Mr. Ralston has argued that his co-worker's account of the incident was "self-serving and conflicting" and "the tenor of her statement to the . . . nurse was one of regret . . . not of being forced or compelled to submit to anything." These arguments do not support his assertion that the evidence was not sufficient to sustain his convictions.

{ΒΆ9} Mr. Ralston admitted that he had sexual intercourse with his co-worker on the floor at the plant that night. The only question was whether it was consensual or compelled by force. Mr. Ralston's co-worker testified that it was not consensual. Viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the State, it was sufficient to prove that Mr. Ralston forced his co-worker to engage in sexual activity with him. To the ...


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