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State v. Sanchez-Garza

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Butler

April 3, 2017

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
GERALDO J. SANCHEZ-GARZA, Defendant-Appellant.


          Michael T. Gmoser, Butler County Prosecuting Attorney, Michael Greer, Government Services Center, for plaintiff-appellee.

          Scott N. Blauvelt, for defendant-appellant.


          HENDRICKSON, P.J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Geraldo J. Sanchez-Garza ("Garza"), appeals his conviction in the Butler County Area II Court for sexual imposition. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         {¶ 2} The victim - a 14-year-old child - testified that on July 22, 2013, she and her friend H. were at their friend L.'s home for a sleepover. Also at the home was Garza (L.'s father), Garza's wife, and Garza's son, M.

         {¶ 3} That night, the victim and the other children (L, H., and M.) watched television together in the basement. L, H., and M. eventually went to sleep on couches in the basement. There was no more room on the couches to accommodate the victim so she went upstairs and slept in L's bedroom.

         {¶ 4} The next morning, the victim woke up to the sound of Garza's wife opening the garage door to leave for work. Shortly thereafter, Garza entered L's bedroom and sat down on the bed next to the victim. The victim was lying on her stomach.

         {¶ 5} Garza began to rub the victim's back over her shirt. The victim testified that she thought this was "weird" but also that Garza was just being nice to her. In this regard, the victim said that she had been best friends with L. for eight years and that Garza was like a second father to her.

         {¶ 6} Garza continued to rub the victim's back and moved his hand under her clothing. Garza and the victim said nothing to one another while this was happening. Garza then began rubbing the victim's buttocks, with his hand under her clothes.

         {¶ 7} Garza next rolled the victim onto her side and lay down behind her, which the victim described as "spooning." The victim testified that Garza began to "dry hump" her, which she said meant that he was "putting his penis up against my butt, pushing up against me." The victim testified that she could feel Garza's erect penis on her back.

         {¶ 8} The victim said she was terrified and thought that Garza was going to rape her. She got out of the bed, followed by Garza. As she was leaving the room the victim told Garza she needed to get her phone and he asked why. She responded that she needed to check Instagram (a social media phone application). She explained that this was a lie but it was all she could think to say. Garza then told her not to tell anyone what happened because he would get in trouble.

         {¶ 9} The victim testified that she ran downstairs to where the other children were sleeping and woke up H. While crying, the victim told H. that she thought that Garza had tried to rape her. L. and M. were apparently awake for this conversation.

         {¶ 10} The children heard Garza come down the stairs to the basement. The victim ¶ed into a nearby laundry room. The other children pretended to be asleep.

         {¶ 11} Garza went into the laundry room and asked the victim what she was doing. The victim said, "nothing." She then began angrily screaming at Garza, stating "you know what you did to me!" Garza responded, saying "why would you say that" and "I didn't do that." At trial, H. described Garza's reaction as "panicked" and "defensive."

         {¶ 12} Garza called his wife, who came home from work. In front of Garza, the victim told Garza's wife what happened. The victim said that Garza then started "dying laughing when I was trying to tell her, like he thought it was all just a big joke." Garza's wife drove the victim back to her home and relayed the accusation to the victim's mother.

         {¶ 13} The state charged Garza with sexual imposition, a violation of R.C. 2907.06 and unlawful restraint, a violation of R.C. 2905.03, both third-degree misdemeanors. At Garza's bench trial, the state introduced the testimony of the victim, H., and investigating police officer Doug Leist.

         {¶ 14} During the trial, and over Garza's objection, H. testified as to what the victim said to her that morning. Also during H.'s testimony, the prosecutor asked her whether she had any reason to "disbelieve" what the victim told her. Again, over objection, H. answered that she did not.

         {¶ 15} Officer Leist testified that he interviewed the victim and was present when she was interviewed at a child advocacy center. Officer Leist testified that the victim's trial testimony was consistent with both interviews. The prosecutor also asked Officer Leist questions concerning Garza's refusal to speak with him before and after his arrest. Garza did not object to these lines of inquiry.

         {¶ 16} The court found Garza guilty of sexual imposition and not guilty of unlawful restraint. The court sentenced Garza to 60 days in jail, all of which were suspended, and two years of community control. The court also designated Garza a Tier I sexual offender.

         {¶ 17} Garza presents us with four assignments of error.

         {¶ 18} ...

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