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City of Columbus v. Cicero

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

July 11, 2013

City of Columbus, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Christopher T. Cicero, Defendant-Appellant.

APPEAL from the Franklin County Municipal Court, M.C. No. 2012 TRD 126156

Columbus City Attorney, and Mary Lynn Caswell, Special Prosecutor, for appellee.

The Behal Law Group LLC, John M. Gonzales, Robert J. Behal, and Jeffrey A. Eyerman, for appellant.

DECISION

CONNOR, J.

{¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Christopher T. Cicero ("appellant"), appeals from a judgment of the Franklin County Municipal Court finding him in contempt of court.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

{¶ 2} On March 21, 2012, appellant was cited for speeding by the Ohio State Highway Patrol. He appeared before Judge Scott VanDerKarr for arraignment on March 22, 2012. Based upon representations appellant made to Judge VanDerKarr regarding a plea agreement, appellant was permitted to plead guilty to an equipment violation. Judge VanDerKarr asked appellant to prepare and submit a proposed judgment entry for his signature. Judge VanDerKarr subsequently signed the proposed judgment entry submitted by appellant and the entry was forwarded to the clerk of court's office for journalization.

{¶ 3} However, on April 4, 2012, the clerk's office contacted Judge VanDerKarr to inquire about two omissions in the journal entry. First, the journal entry did not contain a disposition of the original charge. Second, the name of the prosecutor who offered the plea was not indicated. When Judge VanDerKarr's bailiff contacted appellant by telephone, appellant refused to provide him with the name of the prosecutor who had allegedly offered the plea deal. Judge VanDerKarr contacted appellant by telephone and he again refused to provide the name of the prosecutor. Judge VanDerKarr's recollection of the exchange between he and appellant was as follows:

THE COURT: From 6:00 to 6:30, I basically screamed and yelled at Mr. Cicero for a half hour saying I wanted to know what name he gave me at the bench. He refused. I told him I was going to put a warrant for contempt out for his arrest because he either lied to me in 4C, or he wasn't coming clean with me who the assistant prosecutor was. Called him back about nine o'clock, and I said, Look, I'll take the warrant off if you give me the name; I'll give you a chance to talk to the assistant prosecutor in the morning before they are required to talk to their supervisor. We were disconnected. I could not get him back on the phone. I could not get him to return the phone call, tried over the next hour, left the warrant out all night.

(Apr. 5, 2012 Tr. 3.)

{¶ 4} Appellant turned himself in the next morning and he was brought before Judge VanDerKarr for a hearing. Present at the hearing were City Prosecutors Lara Baker and Bill Hedrick. Both prosecutors represented to Judge VanDerKarr that they had neither prior knowledge of the ticket nor of the alleged plea agreement. They also informed the judge that their office policy did not permit prosecutors to offer a plea to an equipment violation. When asked by Judge VanDerKarr to reveal the name of the prosecutor who offered him the plea, appellant again refused. Thereupon the judge issued the following order:

THE COURT: Mr. Cicero, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to allow you to post a $1, 000 cash bond with the clerk, give you 24 hours. Tomorrow, if you don't give me a name, cash bond will be forfeited and you'll go to jail. And I will just keep bringing your back daily until I have a name.
THE DEFENDANT: All right.
THE COURT: Mike can take him down, let him post the bond with the clerk. Nine o'clock tomorrow morning back here.

(Apr. 5, 2012 Tr. 17.)

{¶ 5} At the proceedings held on April 6, 2013, appellant told Judge VanDerKarr that Brandon Shroy had offered him the plea deal on March 22, 2012. Prosecutor Baker was present at the hearing and informed Judge VanDerKarr that Shroy was no longer employed by the city prosecutor, but that he was employed on the week of March 22, 2012. She further related that she had contacted Shroy by telephone and that Shroy denied making any such offer to appellant. Prosecutor Baker then moved the court to vacate the judgment on the grounds of fraud.

{¶ 6} When Judge VanDerKarr asked appellant about the circumstances surrounding the alleged plea offer from Shroy, appellant refused to provide any further information. The transcript reveals the following exchange:

THE DEFENDANT: Your Honor, at this point in time, this is where I am, you know. If I'm going to have to proceed any further based on what I've just said, then I would like to talk to somebody. But . . .
THE COURT: The Court's going to continue this to Tuesday. Court's going to revoke the bond. Defendant's going to be taken into custody. That will be it. It will be 9 o'clock Tuesday.
THE DEFENDANT: Okay.

(Apr. 6, 2012 Tr. ...


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