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State v. St. John

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Lake

May 30, 2017

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JAMES R. ST. JOHN, Defendant-Appellant.

         Criminal Appeal from the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 15 CR 000091.

          Charles E. Coulson, Lake County Prosecutor, and Karen A. Sheppert, Assistant Prosecutor, Lake County Administration Building, (For Plaintiff-Appellee).

          Matthew C. Bangerter, P.O. (For Defendant-Appellant).

          OPINION

          THOMAS R. WRIGHT, J.

         {¶1} Appellant, James R. St. John, appeals his twenty-two year sentence after pleading guilty to four felony offenses. He contests imposition of consecutive sentences, the length of his sentences, and the court's refusal to merge two of the offenses. The sentence is affirmed in all respects.

         {¶2} As of January 2015, appellant lived on Traymore Boulevard in Eastlake, Lake County, Ohio, a residence near the home of a woman whom he dated for a brief period and with whom he remained friends. This friend's ten-year-old daughter, M.H., would visit appellant's residence from time to time to watch movies. M.H.'s ten-year-old friend, T.M., would sometimes accompany her.

         {¶3} After coming home from work on the night of January 9, 2015, appellant had dinner and got high on cocaine. At approximately 10:00 p.m., he sent a text to M.H., inviting her to come over to watch movies. T.M. was spending the night with M.H. Both went to appellant's residence. Shortly after arrival, appellant played a pornographic movie on his television. Appellant had done this on a prior visit, making both girls uncomfortable.

         {¶4} While the movie was playing, M.H. suggested that the three of them play "truth or dare, " a game in which one person would dare the others to do certain things. Over the next twenty to thirty minutes, the girls: (1) kissed each other; (2) touched appellant's exposed penis moving their hands up and down; (3) placed their mouth on appellant's exposed penis; and (4) rubbed their clothed and unclothed body against appellant's body and penis. Appellant also touched his mouth on each of the girls' genitals. At the conclusion, appellant gave the girls ice cream and told them to not tell anyone.

         {¶5} Over the next few days, appellant and the girls exchanged texts regarding what would happen if the girls told their parents. Ultimately, M.H. told appellant that she was going to tell her mother or grandmother. In response, he texted that he would come to M.H.'s home and admit the incident to her mother, and then turn himself into the police. Eight days following the incident, appellant went to the Eastlake Police Department and told an officer what happened.

         {¶6} After M.H. confirmed appellant's statement, the police searched his residence. The police found significant drug paraphernalia, twenty-three adult magazines, and ten pornographic videos. Some of the pornography depicted girls who, if eighteen years old, were made to look younger.

         {¶7} Appellant pleaded guilty to a four-count information, charging him with one count of rape and one count of gross sexual imposition as to each victim. Upon accepting the plea, the trial court found him guilty and ordered a presentence investigation and a sex offender assessment. At the sentencing hearing, defense counsel presented testimony of a forensic psychologist addressing recidivism. The trial court sentenced appellant to ten years on each rape count and one-year on each gross sexual imposition count, consecutively, for an aggregate term of twenty-two years.

         {¶8} Appellant asserts three assignments of error:

         {¶9} "[1] The trial court erred to the prejudice of the defendant-appellant by failing to merge allied offenses of similar import.

         {¶10} "[2.] The trial court erred by sentencing the defendant-appellant to a term of imprisonment contrary to statute and where its findings were not supported by the record.

         {¶11} "[3.] The trial court erred by sentencing the defendant-appellant to a term of imprisonment contrary to statute and where its findings were not supported by the record."

         {¶12} Prior to sentencing, appellant moved the trial court to merge the gross sexual imposition charge with the rape charge corresponding to the same victim. The trial court heard arguments and overruled appellant's motion. Under his first assignment, appellant asserts this as error.

         {¶13} The imposition of multiple punishments is governed by R.C. 2941.25:

         {¶14} "(A) Where the same conduct by defendant can be construed to constitute two or more allied offenses of similar import, the indictment or information may contain counts for all such ...


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