Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
Appeal from the Parma Municipal Court Case Nos. 2014 CRB
02839 and 2015 CRB 30555
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT John W. Gold
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Timothy G. Dobeck Law Director By: L.
Christopher Frey John Spellacy Assistant City Prosecutors
BEFORE: Laster Mays, J., Boyle, P.J., and Celebrezze, J.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
LASTER MAYS, J.
Defendant-appellant, Douglas E. Odolecki
("Odolecki"), appeals his convictions for violation
of municipal ordinances for two counts of obstructing
official business, and one count each of disorderly conduct
and misconduct at the scene of an emergency. Odolecki was
sentenced to a total of 240 days in jail. After a thorough
review of the record, we affirm in part, vacate in part, and
Background and Facts
Odolecki purports to be a journalist and law enforcement
accountability activist who operates under the name Greater
Cleveland Cop Block. Odolecki was cited for two separate
incidents, and both incidents involved Odolecki's cell
phone recording of police activities. There is also police
dashcam video evidence for the OVI checkpoint.
June 13, 2014 - OVI Checkpoint
On June 13, 2014, the city of Parma Police Department
("Parma PD") was conducting an OVI checkpoint near
the intersection of State and Tuxedo Roads in the city of
Parma. Odolecki stood on the sidewalk at the intersection of
Brookpark and State Roads, a few blocks north of the
checkpoint, holding a sign reading "Checkpoint Ahead
-Turn Now" and periodically vocally warning drivers. The
Parma PD asserts that several vehicles altered their course
to avoid turning onto Brookpark toward the checkpoint area
due to Odolecki's activities.
Two officers approached Odolecki and informed him that the
purpose of the OVI checkpoint was to educate the public of
the dangers of drinking and driving, and that pursuant to
advice from their law department, Odolecki could remain at
the location with the sign, but must remove the words
"turn now." Odolecki refused and was arrested for
obstructing official business, Parma Codified Ordinances
July 29, 2015 - Emergency Scene
On July 29, 2015, Odolecki was riding his bicycle over the
traffic and pedestrian bridge over a wooded ravine on Snow
Road approaching the intersection at South Park Road. As
Odolecki crossed the bridge, he observed two police vehicles
and three police motorcycles with emergency lights activated
in a small, park-like area just past the end of the bridge on
the other side of the street, to his left. Police were
responding to a 911 call from a mother advising that her
17-year-old autistic son was attempting to commit suicide by
jumping off the bridge.
A young man, approximately six-foot three inches tall and 300
pounds, was sitting on a guard rail and several officers were
speaking with him. The young man's mother and her three
young daughters, each under eight years of age, were also at
the scene. Odolecki began recording the encounter with his
cellular telephone from the other side of the street.
Odolecki then crossed the street and began recording directly
adjacent to the scene. An officer advised Odolecki that the
young man was having a "bad day" and asked if he
could "do that another time." Odolecki responded
that he could not. Police Sgt. Gillissie approached Odolecki
and asked that Odolecki remove himself. Odolecki responded
that he was in a public place, and alleges that he was
physically contacted by Sgt. Gillissie.
Odolecki moved across the street to the adjacent corner,
loudly commenting on the police activities, including the
statements, "this guy likes to violate peoples'
rights" and "say hello to Youtube
motherf**ker." Sgt. Gillissie yelled across the street
that Odolecki was offending small children and was again
warned about a disorderly conduct charge. Odolecki responded
that "you're offending people with your
Odolecki was arrested and cited for (1) obstructing official
business (PCO 606.14), (2) disorderly conduct (PCO 606.14),
and (3) misconduct at the scene of an emergency (PCO 648.07).
Officers stated Odolecki interfered with their ability to do
their jobs, because the young man was suicidal and autistic.
Police were required to leave the crisis response situation
to address Odolecki's actions.
The cases were consolidated for trial. After a jury trial,
Odolecki was convicted of all counts and sentenced to a
240-day jail term. The instant appeal followed.
Assignments of Error
Odolecki advances 11 assignments of error:
I. Appellant's conviction for obstruction of official
business on June 13, 2014 was against the manifest weight of
the evidence because the act of holding a sign warning
motorists of a nearby OVI checkpoint does not hamper or
impede the operation of that checkpoint.
II. Appellant's conviction for obstruction of official
business was against the manifest weight of the evidence
because the act of holding a sign on a street corner that
reads "DUI checkpoint ahead - turn now" is speech
protected by the First Amendment, entitling appellant to the
affirmative defense of privilege.
III. The trial court abused its discretion when it excluded
evidence that appellant was exercising his privilege to
protest against the city of Parma's unconstitutional OVI
checkpoint scheme and such error was not harmless because it
deprived appellant of the opportunity to establish an
IV. The appellant's conviction for obstruction of
official business, misconduct at the scene of an emergency
and disorderly conduct on July 29, 2015 was against the
manifest weight of the evidence because act of filming the
city of Parma police in the performance of their duties is
conduct protected by the First Amendment entitling appellant
to the affirmative defense of privilege.
V. The city of Parma failed to prove the mens rea condition
of misconduct at the scene of an emergency.
VI. The city of Parma failed to prove that Mr. Odolecki
engaged in meddlesome or osteperous conduct at the scene of
VII. Mr. Odolecki's conviction for misconduct at the
scene of an emergency must be reversed because as a
journalist he is exempt from the statute's application.
VIII. Telling the city of Parma police to say hello to
Youtube motherf**ker is speech protected by the First
Amendment and entitles appellant to the affirmative defense
of privilege as it pertains to his convictions for
obstruction of official business, misconduct at the scene of
an emergency and disorderly conduct on July 29, 2015.
IX. The trial court committed reversible error when it denied
appellant's Rule 29 motion for acquittal at the close of
the city's case in chief.
X. The trial court abused its discretion when it admitted
video from incidents involving persons other than appellant
which had no connection to the events at issue for the
purpose of proving intent pursuant to Evid.R. 404(B).
XI. The trial court abused its discretion when it imposed
consecutive sentences without making statutorily mandated
findings in support thereof and advocated for the use of
violence against the appellant.
Law and Analysis
Sufficiency and Manifest Weight of the Evidence
The crux of Odolecki's arguments in assigned errors I
through IX is that his convictions are against the manifest
weight and sufficiency of the evidence. We combine those
errors for analysis.
"A claim that a conviction is unsupported by sufficient
evidence tests whether the state has met its burden of
production at trial." State v. Rudd, 8th Dist.
Cuyahoga No. 102754, 2016-Ohio-106, ¶ 32, citing
State v. Hunter, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 86048,
2006-Ohio-20, ¶ 41, citing Thompkins at 390.
The question is not whether the prosecution's evidence
"is to be believed, but whether, if believed, the
evidence admitted at trial supported the conviction."
Rudd at ¶ 32, citing State v. Starks,
8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 91682, 2009-Ohio-3375, ¶ 25. The
court must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the
prosecution and determine whether "'any rational
trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the
crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt.'" State
v. Leonard, 104 Ohio St.3d 54, 2004-Ohio-6235, 818
N.E.2d 229, ¶ 77, quoting State v. Jenks, 61
Ohio St.3d 259, 574 N.E.2d 492 (1991), paragraph two of the
In entertaining a manifest weight challenge, we sit as a
thirteenth juror and intercede only where it is apparent that
"a jury has 'lost its way.'" State v.
Stewart, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 86411, 2006-Ohio-813,
¶ 11, quoting State v. Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d
380, 387, 678 N.E.2d 541 (1997). The weight-of-the-evidence
standard "addresses the evidence's effect of
inducing belief." Rudd at ¶ 61, quoting
State v. Wilson, 113 Ohio St.3d 382, 2007-Ohio-2202,
865 N.E.2d 1264, ¶ 25, citing Thompkins at
June 13, 2014 - Obstruction of Official Business
PCO 606.14 parrots R.C. 2921.31:
(a) No person, without privilege to do so and with purpose to
prevent, obstruct, or delay the performance by a public
official of any authorized act within the public
official's official capacity, shall do any act that
hampers or impedes a public official in the performance of
the public official's lawful duties.
(b) Whoever violates this section is guilty of obstructing
official business. Except as otherwise provided in this
division, obstructing official business is a misdemeanor of
the second degree. If a violation of this section creates a
risk of physical harm to any person, obstructing official
business is a felony to be prosecuted under appropriate state
law. (R.C. 2921.31)
Odolecki argues that the Parma PD failed to prove the
requisite elements of the ordinance. We recently addressed
the elements of obstruction:
Obstructing official business as defined in R.C. 2921.31(A)
has five essential elements: "'(1) an act by the
defendant, (2) done with the purpose to prevent, obstruct, or
delay a public official, (3) that actually hampers or impedes
a public official, (4) while the official is acting in the
performance of a lawful duty, and (5) the defendant so acts
without privilege.'" Brooklyn v. Kaczor,
8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 98816, 2013-Ohio-2901, ¶ 7,
quoting State v. Kates,169 Ohio App.3d 766,
2006-Ohio-6779, 865 N.E.2d 66, ¶ 21 (10th Dist.).
See also State v. Dice, 3d Dist. ...