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The State of Ohio v. Michelle Wills

October 25, 2011

THE STATE OF OHIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MICHELLE WILLS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



CHARACTER OF PROCEEDING: Appeal from the Morrow County Municipal Court Case No. 2010-CRB-2895

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Delaney, J.

Cite as State v. Wills,

JUDGES: Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. William B. Hoffman, J. Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, J.

OPINION

JUDGMENT: REVERSED AND REMANDED

{¶1} Defendant-Appellant, Michelle Wills, appeals the judgment of the Morrow County Municipal Court, finding her guilty of one count of domestic violence, in violation of R.C. 2919.25(A), a misdemeanor of the first degree, and holding her in contempt of court. The State of Ohio waived its right to file a brief in this matter.

SUBSTANTIVE AND PROCEDURAL FACTS

{¶2} On April 26, 2010, Appellant was in a dispute with her live-in boyfriend, Carl Hudson. Appellant lived with Hudson and his mother, Barbara Hudson, at the time.

{¶3} On the evening of the 26th, Appellant and Hudson drove in Appellant's truck to Coaches' Bar in Centerburg, Ohio. While there, both parties consumed alcohol and then they left to go to another bar in Fulton, Ohio. As the two were getting ready to get into Appellant's truck, they got into a verbal dispute as to who should drive because Hudson felt that Appellant was too intoxicated to drive.

{¶4} Appellant initially drove the truck towards Hudson's house until she ran the truck into a ditch. After getting the car out of the ditch, Appellant continued to drive to Hudson's house and yelled at him while in the car. When the two arrived at Hudson's, he took the truck keys out of the ignition and stuck them in his pocket. Appellant chased him into the house, yelling obscenities at him. She demanded that he give her the keys back and was acting belligerent.

{¶5} She then called her dog, a Boxer, to attack Hudson and she began hitting Hudson in the face. Hudson was able to get the dog to disengage, but Appellant kept hitting him. Mrs. Hudson witnessed the assault and confirmed that, as a result of the altercation, Hudson obtained multiple bruises, two black eyes, a bloody nose and a busted lip, as well as scratches from Appellant's keys and fingernails.

{¶6} Appellant took her keys back from Hudson and left the residence. Prior to leaving, she threatened to have Hudson killed. Hudson called the Morrow County Sheriff's office and made a report of the assault. Deputy Rigney filed a complaint for one count of domestic violence against Appellant on April 27, 2010.

{¶7} Appellant was arraigned on May 20, 2010, and entered a not guilty plea and waived her right to a speedy trial. She advised the court that she would retain her own attorney. Later, she filled out an affidavit of indigency and requested court appointed counsel. On July 29, 2010, Appellant appeared before the trial court again, this time for a bench trial on the charge against her. She asked for court appointed counsel. The trial court inquired as to what change in circumstances precipitated the request for court appointed counsel. Appellant stated that she lost her income, which had previously been $4.00 an hour plus tips because she worked as a waitress. She stated that she was behind on her truck payment and her motorcycle payment and that she was "barely" getting by. The court asked why she lost her job and she stated that it was a "mutual agreement" that she leave the job because "the money wasn't worth the drama."

{¶8} The trial court, in inquiring as to whether Appellant was indigent, determined that based upon her assets, a $30,000.00 truck, a $10,000 motorcycle, and the fact that she was residing with her boyfriend's parents and not having to pay rent, that she was not indigent. The court also noted that Appellant was an able-bodied individual who had voluntarily given up her paying job and that the taxpayers should not have to pay for an attorney for her for those reasons.

{¶9} A continuance was granted until September 2, 2010, so that Appellant could try to obtain her own counsel. However, prior to the start of trial on that day, the court noted that Appellant was present, not represented by counsel, and "going to go pro se on this." The court explained that Appellant would be presumed to know the rules of court "just like a lawyer" if she chose to represent herself. He explained the trial procedure regarding opening statements, direct and cross examinations, admitting evidence, and closing arguments. However, there is no written or oral waiver of counsel in the record.

{ΒΆ10} The case proceeded to trial at that time, and the State called Hudson, his mother, and Trooper Russell Rigney. Appellant testified on her own ...


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