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State v. Lipkins

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

June 1, 2017

State of Ohio, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Corey Lipkins, Jr., Defendant-Appellant.

         APPEAL from the Franklin County Municipal Court (M.C. No. 2016 CRB 9182)

         On brief:

          Richard C. Pfeiffer, Jr., City Prosecutor, Melanie R. Tobias, and Orly Ahroni, for appellee.

          Yeura Venters, Public Defender, and Timothy E. Pierce.


          Orly Ahroni.

          Timothy E. Pierce.


          LUPER SCHUSTER, J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Corey Lipkins, Jr., appeals from a judgment entry of the Franklin County Municipal Court finding him guilty of one count of assault and one count of disorderly conduct. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         {¶ 2} On April 26, 2016, plaintiff-appellee, State of Ohio, obtained an arrest warrant for Lipkins and charged him with one count of assault in violation of R.C. 2903.13(A), a first-degree misdemeanor. The state additionally charged Lipkins with one count of disorderly conduct in violation of R.C. 2317.11(A), a fourth-degree misdemeanor. The charges related to an altercation Lipkins had on April 23, 2016 with the victim, Andrew Wells. Lipkins entered a plea of not guilty and requested a jury trial.

         {¶ 3} At the trial commencing July 25, 2016, Wells testified that he and Lipkins were both students at The Ohio State University, and they met in August 2015 when Wells moved into a five-bedroom house located at Chittenden Avenue in which Lipkins was one of the four other occupants. All five occupants of the house had their own bedrooms.

         {¶ 4} Wells testified that he worked as a bus driver for the Campus Area Bus Service. Due to "lack of finances, " Wells testified he took a semester off school but that he had since been reactivated as a student. (Tr. at 180.) Wells said that Lipkins frequently disparaged and insulted him, attempting to make Wells feel inferior because Lipkins was an active student and Wells was only a bus driver, noting Lipkins frequently rode the bus that Wells drove. Because of their contentious relationship, Wells said eventually he stopped trying to be personable or engage with Lipkins at all.

         {¶ 5} Each of the five roommates paid $450 monthly in rent, due on the first of each month, and they made their payments through an online service that allowed the roommates to view who had paid rent, in what amount, and the date it was paid. Wells testified that on several occasions Lipkins did not pay his portion of the rent. On April 20, 2016, the five roommates received a group email from their landlord stating Lipkins "has yet to pay [the April] rent. This is in direct violation of the lease. Please pay the balance along with the late fee in the next 24 hours to avoid eviction proceedings." (Tr. at 189.) Upon receiving the email, Wells testified he sent a group text message to all five roommates but directed at Lipkins, telling Lipkins plainly that he needed to pay his rent immediately to avoid eviction proceedings. Lipkins responded by saying he had "taken care of the situation" by talking to the landlord, but Wells responded that he was skeptical that Lipkins' account was true. (Tr. at 192.) Lipkins then responded by telling Wells he was not an important party and that Wells "could go F off." (Tr. at 193.)

         {¶ 6} On April 21, 2016, after the 24-hour grace period allowed by the landlord had passed, Wells checked the online system and discovered Lipkins still had not paid his rent. Wells testified he knocked on Lipkins' bedroom door repeatedly but that Lipkins initially ignored him. When Lipkins eventually opened his door, Wells testified that the two began arguing about Lipkins' nonpayment of rent. Wells testified that Lipkins told him to "F off and made "a sudden movement to slam the door." (Tr. at 199.) Wells said he was caught off guard and the door hit him in the head, causing him to fall into Lipkins' bedroom, landing on his hands and knees. While he was still crouched on the ground, Wells said someone pulled him up by his neck and placed him in a chokehold. Wells said he did not know anyone else was in the room with Lipkins until that moment. Wells also said the chokehold was "extremely painful" and he felt as though he was having difficulty breathing. (Tr. at 200.)

         {¶ 7} While he remained in a chokehold, Wells said Lipkins began swinging his fists at Wells' face. Wells said he fell backwards onto the bed, landing so that the person who had him in a chokehold was pinned underneath him and that Lipkins climbed on top of Wells and continued to punch Wells in the face. Wells said he lost consciousness at some point during the altercation and that the pressure around his neck caused him to vomit. Wells testified that Lipkins screamed profanities at him while he was attacking him. Using "all of [his] energy, " Wells said he was able to break free from the person holding him to the bed and that Lipkins fell off of Wells. (Tr. at 202.) Wells said he immediately told Lipkins he was going to call the police but that Lipkins "ripped" the phone out of Wells' hand and threw it across the room. (Tr. at 204.)

         {¶ 8} After retrieving his phone, Wells said he was able to use social media to identify the other person in the room with Lipkins as Terrance Hopewell. When he left Lipkins' bedroom, Wells said he realized his face was bleeding, and he used his phone to see bruises and abrasions on his face. His eyeglasses broke during the attack. Wells testified that Lipkins and Hopewell left the house because of Wells' statement that he intended to call the police. As soon as Lipkins and Hopewell left the house, Wells called the police. The police arrived a short time later and took a report of the incident. Wells testified he did not seek medical treatment right away for his injuries because he was worried about the potential cost and did not want his mother to worry about him. Two days after the incident, Wells said he went to the hospital because of a bad headache where doctors performed an MRI scan. Wells said he missed several days of work due to his injuries.

         {¶ 9} Wells further testified that immediately after the assault, Lipkins posted a video of himself on the social media site Snapchat in which Lipkins boasted about beating up Wells. In the video, Lipkins states "Do you remember that roommate bus driver of mine * * *? I just beat that motherfucker's ass. Kicked his face in. And you know me, I'm a teddy bear. People got to stop fucking with me though. It's just not a good idea. One person can only take so much." (State's Ex. E.) Wells testified he viewed the video on a friend's phone the day after the assault.

         {¶ 10} Hopewell also testified, stating he was in Lipkins' room on April 23, 2016 because he was in a sexual relationship with Lipkins. Hopewell said he heard loud knocking on the bedroom door and he "believe[d] the door actually came open a little bit, " either because "the lock broke or * * * it just came unhinged because of the knocking." (Tr. at 282.) Hopewell testified that when Lipkins answered the door, Lipkins and Wells began arguing about the payment of rent. According to Hopewell, when Lipkins attempted to close the bedroom door, Wells tackled Lipkins and the two men began to fight on the floor. Hopewell testified he got up from the bed and placed Wells in a chokehold "[i]n order to defend" Lipkins. (Tr. at 284.) Hopewell described falling backwards on the bed with Wells still in a chokehold, and he said both Wells and Lipkins were trying to hit each other. After attempting to diffuse the situation, Hopewell said he let Wells go and Wells got up to look for his phone. Hopewell testified that Wells and Lipkins continued to verbally argue until Hopewell left the house with Lipkins. On cross-examination, Hopewell estimated he had Wells restrained in a chokehold for 65 seconds.

         {¶ 11} Lipkins testified in his own defense. He stated that on April 23, 2016, he was in his bedroom with Hopewell when he heard a loud banging and shouting at his locked bedroom door. Lipkins said that as soon as he approached the door, "it came open." (Tr. at 325.) Lipkins testified he and Wells began arguing about the payment of rent and that when Lipkins tried to close the bedroom door, Wells "lunged" at him and tried to attack him. (Tr. at 326.) At that point, Lipkins said Hopewell restrained Wells and fell back onto the bed with him, and Lipkins further stated that after Wells was restrained, Lipkins "did try to continue to hit him." (Tr. at 327.) On cross-examination, ...

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