Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Lake
Appeal from the Lake County Court of Common Pleas. Case No.
2016 CR 000170.
Charles E. Coulson, Lake County Prosecutor, and Anna C.
Kelley, Assistant Prosecutor, (For Plaintiff-Appellee).
M. Cafferkey, (For Defendant-Appellant).
TIMOTHY P. CANNON, J.
Appellant, Jessica M. Sari, appeals from the judgment of the
Lake County Court of Common Pleas sentencing her to a prison
term of eleven years; ordering her to pay restitution in the
amount of $12, 608.20, jointly and severally with her
co-defendants; and imposing a mandatory fine of $7, 500.00.
For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the
On February 2, 2016, an affidavit on complaint was issued in
the Painesville Municipal Court alleging Ms. Sari had
illegally conveyed prohibited items onto the grounds of a
detention facility. Ms. Sari was 22 years old at the time of
the offense and was being held at the Lake County Jail for a
misdemeanor petty theft offense. Ms. Sari was subsequently
bound over to the Lake County Court of Common Pleas on the
On June 2, 2016, Ms. Sari was indicted by the Lake County
Grand Jury on three counts: Count One, Illegal Conveyance of
Drugs of Abuse onto the Grounds of a Detention Facility, in
violation of R.C. 2921.36(A)(2), a felony of the third
degree; and Counts Two and Three, Corrupting Another with
Drugs, in violation of R.C. 2925.02(A)(3), felonies of the
Ms. Sari entered into a plea agreement with appellee, the
state of Ohio. At Ms. Sari's plea hearing on August 11,
2016, the indictment was amended by agreement of the parties
to reflect that imposition of a prison sentence is mandatory
for Counts Two and Three.
At the plea hearing, the prosecution stated the evidence
would have shown, had the matter proceeded to trial, that on
or about December 21, 2015, Ms. Sari did knowingly convey
onto the grounds of the Lake County Jail, a detention
facility, a drug of abuse, that being heroin, and did
knowingly by any means, administer or furnish to another, or
induce or cause another to use a controlled substance and
thereby caused serious physical harm to the other person or
caused them to be drug dependent.
Specifically, the prosecution stated Ms. Sari and her
co-defendants, Michael Beachler and Christine Martin,
formulated a plan to bring heroin into the Lake County Jail
when appellant was released for a medical furlough.
Christine, who was also being held at the Lake County Jail,
placed several phone calls to a friend outside of jail
between December 10 and December 17, 2015. Christine arranged
for that friend to send a $200.00 money order to Michael, who
was Ms. Sari's boyfriend at the time. On December 19,
2015, Ms. Sari spoke to Michael on the phone several times
regarding the $200.00 and a transaction involving someone
they referred to as "Hood." Ms. Sari was released
from the jail on a medical furlough on December 21, 2015.
Michael and his step-father picked up Ms. Sari from the jail,
took her to her medical appointment, and returned her to the
jail. Before Ms. Sari was booked into the jail, she concealed
heroin inside her vagina. The heroin was then distributed to
several other inmates, including Christine and Kristi Ellis;
neither Christine nor Ms. Sari have specifically accepted
responsibility for distributing the heroin to Kristi, but
neither of them dispute that Kristi received a portion. The
next day, December 22, 2015, Kristi was found deceased in her
jail cell, and Christine was found unresponsive and required
hospitalization after she was revived with Narcan.
Ms. Sari orally admitted she was guilty of Count One and
Amended Count Two. The parties also agreed that Amended Count
Two would include both victims, Kristi and Christine. With
approval of the parties, the trial court made a handwritten
notation on the written plea of guilty under Amended Count
Two that states, "including victim from Ct. 3." The
state agreed to move to dismiss Amended Count Three at the
time of sentencing and stated it would be recommending the
maximum prison term for Count One and Amended Count Two.
The trial court found Ms. Sari's guilty plea was
knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily made. The trial
court accepted the plea and found Ms. Sari guilty of Count
One and Amended Count Two; Amended Count Three would be
dismissed upon completion of sentencing.
The matter was referred to the Lake County Adult Probation
Department for preparation of a presentence investigation
report ("PSI"), a drug and alcohol evaluation, and
to obtain the necessary victim impact statement.
Ms. Sari filed a sentencing memorandum in mitigation of her
sentence. The memorandum discussed her genuine remorse, as
Kristi had been a good friend of hers even outside the jail
setting. It also discussed Ms. Sari's lack of a prior
felony record or history of violence; her record includes
only misdemeanors "consistent with a drug addict, "
ranging from possession of marijuana to petty theft. The
memorandum also discussed a troublesome family history: when
Ms. Sari was 15 years old, her father passed away from an
accidental overdose of prescription methadone while she was
asleep in an adjoining room of the house; not long before
that, Ms. Sari was allegedly sexually abused by a carnival
worker who was later imprisoned on similar charges brought by
Ms. Sari's friend. The memorandum also mentioned Ms.
Sari's extensive drug addiction history, beginning at an
early age, which culminated in the daily use of heroin for
over four years before her arrest. It also referenced Ms.
Sari's complete psychiatric assessment developed by Dr.
Amy Ginsberg, a forensic/clinical psychologist, and the
statement made by a psychologist at the Lake County
Psychiatric Clinic in her drug and alcohol evaluation report
that Ms. Sari "needs extensive help" with her drug
addiction. Finally, the memorandum discussed the sentences
received by her co-defendants: Michael pled guilty to Illegal
Conveyance and received 30 months in prison; Christine pled
guilty to Illegal Conveyance and Attempted Corrupting Another
with Drugs and received 7 years in prison. It further stated
that a review of some of the similar cases throughout Ohio
shows a range of sentences between 2 and 8 years, most of
which involve manslaughter convictions. News articles
covering these similar cases and Dr. Ginsberg's
psychological assessment were attached to the memorandum. In
its conclusion, the memorandum stated, "[t]he defendant
and her attorneys asks [sic] this Honorable Court to consider
a sentence similar to Christine Martin."
At Ms. Sari's sentencing hearing on September 22, 2016,
the trial court heard from defense counsel on her behalf.
They spoke extensively about the tragedy of her father's
death and Ms. Sari's extensive struggle with drug
addiction as a result. They also outlined Dr. Ginsberg's
psychological assessment, which diagnosed Ms. Sari with major
depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and five
different severe drug disorders (opioids, sedatives, alcohol,
stimulants, and cannabis). They read into the record a
portion of Dr. Ginsberg's report:
From a psychological perspective, the above-mentioned factors
constitute mitigating factors. It is my opinion that these
factors warrant considerable consideration, at least with
respect to the mitigation of the penalty for the alleged
current offenses, especially given that these offenses are
directly related to her mental health disorders, major
depression and PTSD, as well as substance abuse issues.
The trial court then heard from Ms. Sari's mother and
sister. Ms. Sari also spoke on her own behalf, stating she
was nine months sober at the time of the hearing. She
acknowledged her fault for what happened and expressed
remorse and guilt; she stated she experiences night terrors
as a result of Kristi's death. Ms. Sari told the court
she wants to better herself and utilize the available drug
programs while in prison.
The state outlined its position regarding aggravating
sentencing factors, and Kristi's sister gave a victim
impact statement on behalf of herself, Kristi's mother,
and Kristi's five-year-old daughter.
Defense counsel, in response to the trial court's
inquiry, agreed he was requesting that the court impose a
total prison term of 9 years. He stated Glenbeigh, a
residential drug treatment facility, is willing and able to
provide Ms. Sari with a place to stay when she is released.
The state recommended the maximum prison term of 11 years,
stating, in part, that "a message must be sent in cases
like this that bringing drugs into our jail will not be
tolerated here in Lake County."
The trial court stated it had reviewed the PSI, the victim
impact statement, the drug and alcohol evaluation, the
psychological evaluation, his conference in chambers with
counsel and the probation department, and the statements of
Ms. Sari and her counsel.
After a lengthy statement on the record regarding sentencing
factors, discussed further below, the trial court sentenced
Ms. Sari to the maximum term of imprisonment: three years on
Count One and eight years mandatory on Amended Count Two, to
be served consecutive to each other, for a total term of
eleven years. The trial court also ordered Ms. Sari to pay
restitution in the amount of $12, 608.20, jointly and
severally with Michael and Christine, and a mandatory fine of
$7, 500.00. The judgment of sentence was entered on September
Ms. Sari noticed a timely appeal and raises four assignments
of error for our review, all of which relate to the
imposition of her sentence:
[1.] The trial court incorrectly analyzed the aggravating and
mitigating factors set forth in R.C. 2929.12 and then imposed
a sentence based on findings that were not supported by the
[2.] The trial court erred by imposing consecutive sentences
when the court's findings were not supported by the
[3.] The trial court failed to adequately ensure that its
total sentence was proportionate to sentences being given to
similarly situated offenders who have committed similar
offenses, particularly the accomplices in this case.
[4.] The trial court erred in imposing a mandatory fine.
R.C. 2953.08(G) sets forth the standard of review for all
Ohio felony sentencing appeals. It states, in pertinent part,
that an "appellate court may increase, reduce, or
otherwise modify a sentence that is appealed under this
section or may vacate the sentence and remand the matter to
the sentencing court for resentencing * * * if it clearly and
convincingly finds * * * (b) that the sentence is otherwise
contrary to law." R.C. 2953.08(G)(2); see also State
v. Marcum, 146 Ohio St.3d 516, 2016-Ohio- 1002,
¶10, and State v. Hettmansperger, 11th Dist.
Ashtabula No. 2014-A-0006, 2014- Ohio-4306, ¶14. Thus,
an appellate court will not reverse a felony sentence unless
it clearly and convincingly finds that the record does not
support the trial court's findings. State v.
Venes, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 98682, 2013-Ohio-1891,