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State of Ohio v. Ronald Burrell

November 3, 2011

STATE OF OHIO PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
RONALD BURRELL DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-537996

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

Cite as State v. Burrell,

JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

JUDGMENT:

AFFIRMED IN PART; REVERSED AND REMANDED IN PART

BEFORE: Sweeney, J., Boyle, P.J., and Jones, J.

{¶1} Defendant-appellant Ronald Burrell ("defendant") appeals his conviction for theft as well as the trial court's order of restitution and imposition of fines and court costs. For the reasons that follow, we affirm in part and reverse and remand in part.

{¶2} Although defendant was charged with a four count indictment, he was only convicted and sentenced for one count of theft pursuant to R.C. 2913.02(A)(3), a felony of the fifth degree. The court imposed a six month jail term, imposed a $2,000.00 fine, court costs, and ordered him to pay restitution to Anna Woods in the amount of $1,130.00.

{¶3} According to the record, on November 4, 2009, defendant entered into a residential lease agreement*fn1 with Coretta Johnson, Square Harris, and Dominique Johnson

(the "tenants") concerning the property located at 1414 E. 221st Street in Euclid, Ohio (the "property").

{¶4} It is undisputed that defendant never owned the property.

{¶5} Anna Woods testified that she has owned the property since 1992. After receiving foreclosure notices, Ms. Woods moved out of the property sometime in 2006. Ms. Woods further testified that she filed bankruptcy on two different occasions in an effort to keep her house.*fn2 Ms. Woods said she thought she was losing the property to foreclosure and she did nothing with the property for a period of time. Upon discovering that there was someone occupying the property, Ms. Woods contacted her attorney and was advised that she still owned it and that there was a warrant out for her arrest for failing to register it as a rental property. Ms. Woods insisted that she never rented the property to anyone and never gave anyone else permission to do so. She had never met defendant and could not identify him from a photo lineup.

{¶6} An inspector from Euclid had cited the property for code violations and discovered that the tenants had entered a lease agreement with defendant. The inspector notified the assistant law director, who discovered from county records that Ms. Woods was still listed as the owner of the property. The assistant law director eventually met with Ms. Woods and was told that she had not rented out the property; nor had she given anyone else permission to rent it. The assistant law director then contacted defendant who claimed he had a management agreement with Ms. Woods that authorized him to enter the rental agreement with the tenants. However, when defendant met with the assistant law director, he admitted he did not have the agreement and felt he could do whatever he pleased with the property since it was the subject of a foreclosure action. He then proceeded to complete an Application for Certificate of Rental Occupancy and paid the associated fee. Defendant signed the application alleging to be the legal agent of Anna Woods.

{¶7} Defendant later met with Detective Roose and claimed he had Ms. Woods's verbal permission to rent the property. He told Det. Roose that he asked Ms. Woods if he could have the property and she allegedly said yes. Although defendant said he could identify Ms. Woods, he could not identify her when presented with a photo array that contained her picture.

{¶8} Coretta Jackson said she was required to pay $600.00 a month pursuant to her lease agreement with defendant. She recalled making at least two payments to defendant by way of money orders and cash. Det. Roose testified that defendant acknowledged receiving $1,130.00 in rental payments from the tenants; none of which was given to Ms. Woods.

{ΒΆ9} At sentencing, defendant stated that he undertook to repair and rent the property because it was negatively effecting the value of his home that was next door to it. Defendant believed the property was abandoned. He, however, acknowledged that he should not have put the tenants in the property. The trial court did not find defendant's explanation to be credible. After confirming that defendant had ...


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