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State v. Lytle

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District

June 21, 2013

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
NORMA LYTLE, Defendant-Appellant.

CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM COMMON PLEAS COURT

COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT STERLING E. GILL, II: Sterling E. Gill, II, Law Offices of Sterling Gill, Pro Se.

COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Matthew S. Schmidt, Ross County Prosecuting Attorney, and Jeffrey C. Marks,

DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

Peter B. Abele, Judge

{¶ 1} This is an appeal from a Ross County Common Pleas Court judgment holding Sterling E. Gill II, defense counsel below and appellant herein, in contempt of court. Appellant assigns the following errors for review: [1]

FIRST ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR:
"THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN RULING THAT DEFENDANT-APPELLANT WAS IN CRIMINAL CONTEMPT OF COURT WHEN HE WAS LATE FOR COURT ON MAY 1, 2012."
SECOND ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR:
"THE TRIAL COURT'S DECISION WAS AGAINST THE MANIFEST WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE IN THAT DEFENDANT-APPELLANT'S TARDINESS AT COURT WAS FULLY DOCUMENTED AND DEMONSTRATED THE TARDINESS WAS FOR CAUSE AS BOTH DEFENDANT-APPELLANT AND HIS CLIENT HAD LEGITIMATE DOCUMENTED REASONS FOR BEING ABSENT AND/OR LATE FOR COURT ON THE DATE IN QUESTION."

{¶ 2} On October 29, 2010, the Ross County Grand Jury returned an indictment that charged Norma Lytle with two counts of drug trafficking. Although the Public Defender's office initially represented Lytle, on January 31, 2012 appellant entered an appearance and substitution of counsel.

{¶ 3} The trial court granted appellant two continuances and set the matter for trial on May 1, 2012, at 8:30 AM. Neither Lytle nor appellant appeared on time. However, appellant did appear at approximately 9:55 AM. Although questioned on the record as to his own tardiness, apparently the trial court's primary intention was "attempting to establish why [his] client [was] not [there]."[2]

{¶ 4} At the conclusion of those proceedings, the trial court set a show cause hearing for May 16, 2012 to determine whether appellant should be held in contempt of court. The trial court also informed appellant that the hearing would be cancelled if he could provide the court with "authenticated confirmation" that appellant had foot surgery, was taking medication and could not appear on time for trial.[3] Apparently, appellant did not provide that documentation. At one point during the June 4, 2012 hearing the following colloquy occurred between the court and counsel:

"THE COURT: Alright. [Appellant], giving you the benefit of the doubt on that, you are admitting that you showed up late, that you were suppose to be there at 8:30, ...

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