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State v. Riggins

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

January 11, 2017

STATE OF OHIO Appellee
v.
CHE M. RIGGINS Appellant

         APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. CR 14 11 3501 (HH)

          DENNIS W. MCNAMARA, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

          SHERRI BEVAN WALSH, Prosecuting Attorney, and RICHARD S. KASAY, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          CARLA MOORE, JUDGE

         {¶1} Defendant-Appellant, Che Riggins, appeals from his conviction in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas. This Court affirms in part and reverses in part.

         I.

         {¶2} On the evening of November 15, 2014, multiple law enforcement agencies conducted a raid at a home in Akron. The raid occurred because the police suspected that a large scale, illegal dogfight was set to occur on the property. As a result of the raid, the police arrested more than 45 individuals in connection with dogfighting. Mr. Riggins was one of the individuals whom the police arrested. At the time of his arrest, he had $1, 320 in cash on his person.

         {¶3} A grand jury indicted Mr. Riggins on one count of dogfighting, in violation of R.C. 959.16(A)(5). His indictment also contained a specification for the criminal forfeiture of $1, 320. Because the same trial judge was assigned to preside over the trials of Mr. Riggins and his co-defendants, the judge held multiple, combined pre-trials and status conferences for all of the named defendants. Relevant to this appeal, the court set a status conference two weeks before trial for any defendant who "desire[d] to waive his right to a jury trial and, instead, elect[ed] to have his case tried to the Court." After the scheduled status conference, Mr. Riggins' counsel filed a written waiver of trial by jury. Mr. Riggins then had a bench trial, at the conclusion of which the court found him guilty of dogfighting, but not guilty of his forfeiture specification. The court sentenced him to a suspended sentence, two years of community control, and a fine.

         {¶4} Mr. Riggins now appeals and raises three assignments of error for our review.

         II.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR I

         THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED REVERSIBLE AND PLAIN ERROR WHEN PRIOR TO CONDUCTING THE BENCH TRIAL IT FAILED TO FOLLOW THE REQUIREMENTS SET FORTH IN R.C. 2945.05[]

         {¶5} In his first assignment of error, Mr. Riggins argues that the trial court erred when it conducted a bench trial in the absence of a properly executed jury waiver. He argues that the jury waiver that his counsel filed was invalid because it did not comply with R.C. 2945.05. The State concedes the error.

         {¶6} Mr. Riggins acknowledges that a plain error standard applies here, as his counsel did not object when the court held a bench trial in the absence of a valid jury waiver. "'There are three requirements to finding plain error.'" State v. Kudla, 9th Dist. Summit No. 27652, 2016-Ohio-5215, ¶ 7, quoting State v. Proctor, 9th Dist. Summit No. 26740, 2013-Ohio-4577, ¶ 4, citing State v. Payne, 114 Ohio St.3d 502, 2007-Ohio-4642, ¶ 15-16. "First, there must be an error." Kudla at ¶ 7, quoting Proctor at ¶ 4. "Second, the error must be obvious." Kudla at ¶ 7, quoting Proctor at ¶ 4. "Lastly, the error must have affected the outcome of the trial." Kudla at ¶ 7, quoting Proctor at ¶ 4, citing State v. Barnes, 94 Ohio St.3d 21, 27 (2002).

         {¶7} R.C. 2945.05 governs jury waivers in criminal trials. It requires all waivers to be "in writing, signed by the defendant, and filed in said cause and made a part of the record thereof." R.C. 2945.05. It further provides that a waiver

shall be entitled in the court and cause, and in substance as follows: "I ___, defendant in the above cause, hereby voluntarily waive and relinquish my right to a trial by jury, and elect to be tried by a Judge of the Court in which the said cause may be pending. I fully understand that under the laws ...

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