FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF
SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. CR 14 11 3501 (HH)
W. MCNAMARA, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.
BEVAN WALSH, Prosecuting Attorney, and RICHARD S. KASAY,
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
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.
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.
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.
Mr. Riggins now appeals and raises three assignments of error
for our review.
OF ERROR I
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
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
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).
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
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