Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Butler
APPEAL FROM HAMILTON MUNICIPAL COURT Case No. 16 CRB 00595
D. Schuett, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for
N. Blauvelt, for defendant-appellant.
1} Defendant-appellant, Jacob Goodwin, appeals from
his conviction and sentence in the Hamilton Municipal Court
for cruelty to animals.
2} Following an investigation into a dead dog found
inside a cage in a dumpster at an apartment complex in
Hamilton, Butler County, Ohio, Goodwin was charged by
complaint with one count of cruelty to animals in violation
of R.C. 959.131(B), a misdemeanor of the first degree.
Goodwin entered a not guilty plea to the charge and a bench
trial commenced on May 11, 2016.
3} At trial, the state presented testimony from
Deputy Kurt Merbs, a supervisor dog warden for the Butler
County Sheriffs Office. Merbs testified that on February 5,
2016, he was dispatched to an apartment complex in Hamilton,
Ohio after a dead dog was found in a dumpster. Merbs found an
erect cage with a sheet covering it sitting inside a
dumpster. Inside the cage, on top of a wet and moldy blanket,
was a dead black and brown, mixed breed dog. Inside the cage
with the dog was some moldy dog food. The dog was very thin
and had open wounds on its hind end and hip area. After
removing the dog and cage from the dumpster, Merbs found a
tag with Sarah Schmuck's phone number on the dog's
4} Merbs called Schmuck, who informed him that she
had given the dog away to some unidentified people she met at
a Speedway. A few days later, Merbs followed up his phone
call with Schmuck by visiting her at her apartment, which was
located near the apartment complex where the dead dog was
found. At this time, Schmuck repeated her story about having
given the dog away.
5} On February 10, 2016, Schmuck reported to the dog
warden's office with Goodwin. Both Schmuck and Goodwin
gave a statement to Merbs. Schmuck informed Merbs she went to
stay with her mother for a week while Goodwin looked after
her dog. During this time, the dog died. She also informed
Merbs that the dog had stopped eating about two weeks prior
to that, but she had not taken the dog to a veterinarian.
6} Goodwin told Merbs that while Schmuck was
visiting her mother, he went to Schmuck's apartment
"maybe two or three times" in a "week's
time" to care for the dog. When Merbs asked Goodwin what
caring for the dog entailed, Goodwin stated he would
"just open the cage, the dog would go into the bathroom
of the apartment and use the restroom on the floor, and then
he would put it back in the cage and throw it some dog food
and head back out."On one of the occasions when he stopped
by Schmuck's apartment, Goodwin found the dog dead.
Goodwin told Merbs he took the cage containing the dog,
walked it to a nearby dumpster, and "pitched it in the
dumpster" before covering it with a sheet. After
admitting his involvement in the incident, Goodwin asked
Merbs whether the offense he committed was a first-degree or
second-degree misdemeanor, if he would have to cut his hair
while in jail, and whether his conviction would "screw
up him getting a CCW permit."
7} On cross-examination, Merbs admitted he did not
know how long the dog had been in the dumpster before it was
discovered. He also admitted that the first time Schmuck had
mentioned Goodwin's name in connection with the dog was
on February 10, 2016, five days after the dog had been
8} Following Merbs' testimony, the state rested
its case-in-chief. The trial court accepted into evidence
photographs Merbs had taken of the dog when it was first
removed from the dumpster. Goodwin then moved for acquittal
pursuant to Crim.R. 29, but his motion was denied by the
trial court. Thereafter, Goodwin and Schmuck testified on
behalf of Goodwin's defense.
9} Schmuck testified the dog found in the dumpster
was her dog, Charlie, and that she had been the dog's
owner for about two years. Schmuck stated she was the one who put
the dog in the dumpster. She explained the dog "got sick
and died and I came home from work one day and found him and
it was late at night so I kind of freaked out and didn't
really know what to do so I took him to the dumpster."
According to Schmuck, the dog had been ill around the time of
his death. She stated that "about a month before he
passed he was sick and he would throw the food back up so I
reduced his food some and kept feeding him and he started to
eat some but then he just passed away and I don't know
10} Schmuck acknowledged that she had not been
truthful when talking to Deputy Merbs. When she originally
told him she gave the dog away to someone at Speedway, she
did so because she was "freaking out" and
"didn't know what to say." At the time of the
dog's death, she had been staying at her mother's
home, which was about 30 minutes away from her apartment.
However, she was stopping back at her apartment
"regularly" as she was "still going back and
forth between the apartment for work." On the day the
dog died, Schmuck came home from work and found him
"laying there motionless." She stated she "got
the cage and * * an old sheet and put it over the cage, put
it in my car and drove to a different apartment and put him
in the dumpster."
11} According to Schmuck, Goodwin had nothing to do
with the dog's death or the dog's placement in the
dumpster. She had not asked Goodwin to care for the dog and
he only knew of the dog's death and placement in the
dumpster because she told him about it. Schmuck testified she
was being truthful in court and was testifying on
Goodwin's behalf "[b]ecause I don't believe that
it's right that somebody else gets in trouble for
something that I did."
12} Goodwin testified his February 10, 2016
statement to Merbs was false, as he had not been asked to
care for the dog and he had not put the dog in the dumpster.
He first learned about the dog dying and being placed in the
dumpster when Schmuck, his former girlfriend, contacted him
to tell him about Merbs' investigation. As he was
concerned that Schmuck might face jail time for her actions,
and he "felt bad for her" and "didn't want
her to go through [it] alone, " Goodwin accompanied
Schmuck to the dog warden's office and claimed
responsibility. He testified, "It was just kind of not
really a spur of the moment thing but like I had it in the
back of my head that I was going to do it but when I seen her
crying and stuff I was like, 'I did it.'"
13} After considering the foregoing testimony and
evidence, the trial court found Goodwin guilty as charged. In
finding Goodwin guilty, the court discounted Schmuck's
I can't think of any person that I've ever really
seen testify that has as little credibility as Ms. Schmuck
had here today. * * * [W]hen a person basically comes in and
says that "I'm lying all the time. I'm lying all
the time, but now I'm telling the truth, " well, she
has no credibility at all. Her testimony was worth nothing
except that it does make me think that the only reason she
was here to testify today was to try to help Mr. Goodwin get
out of trouble for his acts with regard to this dog.
14} The court sentenced Goodwin to 180 days in jail,
with 60 days stayed, and to a two-year term of community
control. The court also imposed a $400 fine and ordered
Goodwin to pay costs.
15} Goodwin appealed, raising three assignments of
error. Prior to addressing the merits of his assigned errors,
this court will first consider Goodwin's December 27,
2016 motion to strike documents attached to the state's
16} The state filed its appellate brief on December
12, 2016, and attached to its brief four documents: (1) a
screen capture of Goodwin's supervision fees, (2) a
screen capture of Goodwin's indigent fees, (3)
Goodwin's General Conditions of Supervised Community
Control, and (4) a Court Order regarding the total fines
Goodwin was ordered to pay. ...