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State v. Saunders

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District

August 27, 2013

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ROBERT SAUNDERS, Defendant-Appellant.

William T. Cramer, Westerville, Ohio, for Appellant. [1]

Laina Fetherolf, Hocking County Prosecutor, and Jonah M. Saving, Assistant Hocking County Prosecutor, Logan, Ohio for Appellee.

DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

Matthew W. McFarland, Presiding Judge

(¶1} Defendant-Appellant Robert E. Saunders, Jr., appeals the judgment entry of conviction and sentence in the Hocking County Municipal Court dated February 25, 2013. Appellant was convicted after a trial to the court on a charge of criminal mischief, in violation of RC. 2909.07(A)(1), a misdemeanor of the third degree. On appeal, he contends: (1) there was insufficient evidence that he knowingly damaged property, and (2) the judge's finding was against the manifest weight of the evidence. Having reviewed the record and the pertinent law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court and overrule Appellant's assignments of error.

FACTS

(¶2} Appellant was charged with criminal mischief subsequent to events which occurred on July 30, 2012. The case eventually proceeded to a trial which took place on February 25, 2013 in the Hocking County Municipal Court. The State of Ohio presented testimony from two witnesses, Harry Santiago, Jr., the victim of the alleged criminal damaging, and Heidi Forrest. Appellant testified on his own behalf

(¶3} Santiago testified on the incident date, his car, a 2011 Toyota Corolla, [2] was parked in front of his house in a dirt pull-off spot, parallel to the roadway. The pull-off spot was approximately four feet from the roadway. Santiago was inside the house when he heard a "really loud noise kind of spinning out." Santiago looked outside his window and saw Appellant, his neighbor, "spinning out" next to his car.[3] Appellant's car was next to Santiago's car, not moving. The gravel hit the car and Santiago's house, approximately 20 feet from the roadway. Santiago, his girlfriend Heidi Forrest, and another neighbor, Anthony Smith, walked outside and saw Appellant in his vehicle, still spinning. Santiago testified the incident lasted for approximately 45 seconds. After Appellant drove away, Santiago looked at his vehicle, but it was dark.

(¶4} Santiago testified the next day, he saw rocks and gravel all over his car from where Appellant had spun his tires, and a black mark on the actual roadway where Appellant's car had been. The paint on Santiago's car was scratched on the hood, the top of the car, and the sides. Santiago testified he considered Appellant a friend and had no idea why he operated his car in such a way.

(¶5} Heidi Forrest testified she and Santiago were in the kitchen around midnight when they could hear "somebody come flying up the hill." They looked out the window to see Appellant slow down and stop when he reached where the Toyota was parked. After Appellant stopped, he "punched" the gas and they could hear and see rocks hitting the car. Forrest testified Appellant spun the gravel for 15-20 seconds. Forrest testified they ran outside with a flashlight. Appellant pulled up to the side of the road and walked to his house while Santiago and she surveyed the damage. They then called the police. No one moved the car. It was in the exact spot when the police arrived.

(¶6} Forrest described the Toyota as having gravel on the hood and trunk, and scratch marks up and down the side of the car and hood. Forrest acknowledged she was not familiar with the car and could not say if the scratches were there prior to the incident. She also testified she did not think any of the gravel hit Santiago's house. Forrest testified she did not know Appellant personally. Although it was dark, nothing obstructed her view and she indicated she could clearly see the vehicle and, necessarily, the events which occurred.

(¶7} Appellant testified he was going to feed his dog around 1:00 a.m. when he found the road blocked by Santiago's car. He had to go into the ditch on the left side to get past Santiago's car. When he slid into the ditch, he spun a little gravel as he passed the car. Appellant emphasized Santiago's driver's side tires were sitting on the blacktop, about two feet onto the right side of the road. He also testified Santiago's house was approximately 75 feet from the roadway.

(¶8} When asked if he ever kicked up the gravel, Appellant responded: "I couldn't swear to it, no." When asked if he ever intentionally spun the gravel, he answered "No, sir, absolutely not." Appellant explained that at the time the State's witnesses said he was stopped, spinning out his tires, he was actually sliding into the ditch. Appellant testified he did not know there was any damage until he came by approximately 30 minutes later and an officer stopped him

(¶9} Appellant also testified before the incident, Santiago's car was parked in the roadway every day. Neighbors complained about Santiago's repeated blocking of the road. On cross-examination, Appellant admitted he was "a little upset" that he could not get home without going through the ditch, but "it's not enough to make me want to damage anything." Appellant offered that he had been arguing with his girlfriend, but "wasn't agitated" with Santiago. Appellant also testified he considered them to be friends. The defense offered one exhibit, a picture of the roadway which showed one spin track.

(¶ 10} The trial court found Appellant guilty of criminal mischief beyond a reasonable doubt. Appellant was fined $100.00 plus court costs, and sentenced to 60 days in jail, all suspended. He was referred to mental health court and ordered to have no contact with Santiago. A hearing on restitution was set for April ...


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