Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Cassell

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Highland

February 22, 2017

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
RODGER CASSELL, Defendant-Appellant.

          Rodger Cassell, Orient, Ohio, pro se appellant.

          Anneka Collins, Highland County Prosecuting Attorney, and James Roeder, Highland County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Hillsboro, Ohio, for appellee.

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

          William H. Harsha, Judge.

         {¶1} Rodger Cassell pleaded guilty to drug possession and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity with forfeiture specifications under Ohio's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute. After accepting the plea the court convicted him, imposed consecutive sentences, and ordered certain of Cassell's personal property forfeited.

         {¶2} Approximately five years later Cassell filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea to the RICO count. He argued that after he pleaded guilty, the Supreme Court of Ohio, in a case involving two of his co-defendants, held that the RICO statute was ambiguous concerning the monetary threshold necessary to obtain a conviction, and that the minimum threshold must be applied to each individual within the enterprise, rather than to the enterprise as a whole. Cassell argues that he did not have a complete understanding of the RICO charge at the time he pleaded guilty because the Supreme Court of Ohio had not yet clarified that the $500 threshold applied to each individual, rather than collectively to the enterprise. He argued that this created a manifest injustice justifying the withdraw of his guilty plea. The trial court denied the motion.

         {¶3} On appeal Cassell claims that the trial court violated the supremacy, due process and equal protection clauses of the United States Constitution when it refused to give the Ohio Supreme Court's decision in State v. Stevens, 139 Ohio St.3d 247, 2014-Ohio-1932, 11 N.E.3d 252 retroactive application. However, the trial court was not required to apply the decision retroactively. Stevens is a plurality opinion and therefore not binding on anyone beyond the parties in that case. Moreover, the trial court in effect applied Stevens retroactively when it indicated Cassell was charged with personally receiving more than $36, 000 from his activity within the enterprise. We reject this assignment of error.

         {¶4} Cassell also claims that the trial court abused its discretion when it overruled his motion without a hearing because he established that a manifest injustice occurred due to an incorrect application of the RICO statute's monetary threshold at his plea hearing. We reject this contention for two reasons. First, Cassell's guilty plea was an admission that he personally received more than $500 from his activity in the enterprise. Second, our review of the plea colloquy discloses that the trial court explained the nature of the Ohio RICO count. Cassell did not profess any confusion, ask any questions, or give any indication that he did not understand the nature of the charges. And, any possible confusion that may have existed about the monetary threshold was immediately dispelled when the trial court informed Cassell that the monetary amount the state alleged against him individually exceeded the minimum threshold of $500, i.e. more than $36, 000. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying his motion to withdraw without a hearing, we reject this assignment of error.

         {¶5} Cassell also contends that his guilty plea was void, as being involuntary, because he could not be expected to understand a statute that the Supreme Court subsequently determined was ambiguous. Thus, Cassell argues that his guilty plea was not knowingly entered, making it void. Based upon our rejection of his first and second assignment of errors, the premise for his claim that he could not have knowingly entered a guilty plea is false. Moreover, to the extent that he argues the trial court failed to comply with Civ. R. 11, the record clearly refutes that contention.

         {¶6} Last Cassell contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion because the court improperly relied upon his guilty plea to other drug charges in reaching its decision. Cassell misconstrues the trial court's decision. The trial court did not deny his motion to withdraw his RICO plea because he had also pleaded guilty to drug possession. Instead the trial court noted that in the absence of manifest injustice justifying the withdrawal of Cassell's RICO plea, the entire plea agreement should remain enforceable. We overrule Cassell's fourth assignment of error.

         {¶7} Therefore, we affirm the trial court's judgment denying his postsentence motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

         I. FACTS

         {¶8} A Highland County grand jury charged Cassell with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity (the Ohio RICO count), tampering with evidence, drug possession, drug trafficking, drug trafficking in a school zone, and a forfeiture specification associated with the Ohio RICO count. The indictment included a total of 62 counts and 9 defendants. Cassell was charged in 57 of the 62 counts. The state alleged that Cassell was the leader of an illegal drug enterprise and, as leader, he obtained heroin and cocaine for distribution, and directed the drug trafficking activities of his co-defendants. The forfeiture specification alleged that Cassell used, derived, or realized property in his RICO activities, including $36, 569.00 in U.S. currency seized from him, four vehicles, two televisions and a GPS.

         {¶9} Cassell pleaded guilty to one Ohio RICO count, the forfeiture count, and one count of drug possession. He agreed to forfeit all interest in the monies and property identified in the indictment. The state dismissed the remaining charges and recommended a total sentence of 9 years. The trial court conducted a colloquy to determine whether Cassell was fully informed of his rights and understood the consequences of his guilty plea. Upon being satisfied that Cassell knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily entered his plea and waived his constitutional rights, the court accepted his plea, convicted him, sentenced him to nine years in prison and ordered the forfeiture of the listed property and money.

         {¶10} Co-defendants Jeffrey Stevens and Zachary Bondurant went to trial and ultimately had their RICO convictions reversed by the Supreme Court in State v. Stevens, 139 Ohio St.3d 247, 2014-Ohio-1932, 11 N.E.3d 252. Five years later Cassell filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, the trial court denied it, and Cassell appealed.

         II. ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR

         {¶11} Cassell assigns the following errors for our review:

I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED AND ABUSED JUDICIAL DISCRETION WHEN OVERRULING THE POST-SENTENCE MOTION TO WITHDRAW GUILTY PLEA WITHOUT A HEARING BECAUSE THE MOTION SET FORTH A MANIFEST INJUSTICE IN NEED OF CORRECTION AS DEFINED BY OHIO CRIM. R. 32.1. (DOC. NO. 100, 04/28/16).
II. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED, ABUSED JUDICIAL DISCRETION, AND VIOLATED THE SUPREMACY, DUE PROCESS AND EQUAL PROTECTIONS [SIC] CLAUSES OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION BY OVERRULING THE POST-SENTENCE MOTION TO WITHDRAW GUILTY PLEA WITHOUT A HEARING WHEN REFUSING TO RETROSPECTIVEY [SIC] APPLY STATE V. STEVENS & BONDURANT (2014), 139 Ohio St.3d 247, 11 N.E.3d 252, IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PRINCIPLES SET FORTH IN FIORE, BUNKLEY, MONTGOMERY, AND AGEE. (DOC. NO. 100, 04/28/16).
III. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED AND ABUSED JUDICIAL DISCRETION WHEN OVERRULING THE POST-SENTENCE MOTION TO WITHDRAW GUILTY PLEA WITHOUT A HEARING WHEN PROVEN THAT THE GUILTY PLEA WAS "VOID" BECAUSE IT WAS PREDICATED ON AN AMBIGUOUS INTERPRETATION OF OHIO'S "RICO ACT" THAT WAS SUBJECTED TO A LATTER CLARIFICATION AND DEFINITIONAL CORRECTION BY THE SUPREME COURT OF OHIO IN APPELLANT'S CO-DEFENDANTS' CASE, IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PRINCIPLES SET FORTH IN FIORE, BUNKLEY, MONTGOMERY, AND AGEE. (DOC. NO. 100, 04/28/16).
IV. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED, ABUSED JUDICIAL DISCRETION, AND VIOLATED THE DUE PROCESS AND EQUAL PROTECTIONS [SIC] CLAUSES OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION WHEN OVERRULING THE POST-SENTENCE MOTION TO WITHDRAW GUILTY PLEA WITHOUT A HEARING BY RULING THAT APPELLANT WAS NOT ALLOWED TO WITHDRAW HIS GUILTY PLEA TO THE UNCONSTITUTIONALLY INTERPRETED OHIO RICO CHARGE, STANDING ALONE, BECAUSE HE ALSO PLEAD [SIC] GUILTY TO ANOTHER DRUG CHARGE. (DOC. NO. 100, 04/28/16).

         III. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.