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State v. Taylor

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Adams

June 7, 2017

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
AARON M. TAYLOR, Defendant-Appellant.

         CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM COMMON PLEAS COURT

          Tyler E. Cantrell, West Union, Ohio, for appellant.

          David Kelley, Adams County Prosecuting Attorney, and Kris D. Blanton, Adams County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, West Union, Ohio, for appellee.

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

          Peter B. Abele, Judge

         {¶ 1} This is an appeal from an Adams County Common Pleas Court judgment of conviction and sentence. A jury found Aaron M. Taylor, defendant below and appellant herein, guilty of possession of heroin, in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A). Appellant assigns the following errors for review:

         FIRST ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR:

         "THE COURT COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN DENYING THE DEFENDANT'S REQUEST TO PLEAD GUILTY AS CHARGED."

         SECOND ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR:

         "THE COURT COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN SENTENCING DEFENDANT TO A HARSHER SENTENCE DUE TO A JURY TRIAL."

         {¶ 2} On June 5, 2015, an Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper conducted a routine traffic stop of appellant's vehicle. During the stop, the trooper saw marijuana inside the vehicle. A subsequent search uncovered heroin in the vehicle and on appellant's person.

         {¶ 3} Subsequently, an Adams County grand jury returned an indictment that charged appellant with possession of heroin, in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A). Appellant entered a not guilty plea and the trial court set the case for a jury trial.

         {¶ 4} Immediately before the trial began, appellant's counsel informed the court that appellant wished to plead guilty. The court responded:

No, we are done with those days where we wait until the last minute and we inconvenience 80 people or 100 people. He wanted a trial, he'll get a trial, but I am not going to, this is not going to be happening in this court any more where for some reason I think there was some late evidence on Friday, discovery since December 1st, we have had multiple hearings, so I don't know, it will be an interesting appealable issue.

         Appellant's counsel clarified that he did not receive the "late evidence" that the court mentioned until 3:00 pm on the last business day (Friday) before the date the trial was set to begin (Monday). Appellant's counsel stated that "if we had had [the evidence] brought to us earlier it might have been a different story." The court nevertheless denied appellant's request to plead guilty. The court did, however, grant appellant's request to prohibit the state from introducing the late evidence.[1] After hearing the evidence, the jury found appellant guilty as charged.

         {¶ 5} At the sentencing hearing, the trial court considered appellant's criminal history. The court noted that appellant (1) had been convicted of obstructing official business, and (2) had multiple traffic violations (i.e., speeding and seat belt violations, failure to control, failure to maintain an assured clear distance). The court further observed that in 2012, appellant was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated and involuntary manslaughter, but due to a technicality (appellant's blood test apparently was misplaced), the case was dismissed with prejudice. Appellant admitted that he was on Methadone at the time of the accident that resulted in the involuntary manslaughter charge and that he continues to use Methadone to treat his addiction.

         {¶ 6} With respect to appellant's current possession of heroin offense, the trial court determined that appellant did not display any remorse. The court also noted that the excluded videotape evidence shows appellant snorting heroin in the back seat of the police cruiser. The judge further pointed out that appellant knew exactly what happened and that the evidence on the videotape should not have been a surprise. The court thus discounted appellant's claim that he could not have made an informed decision whether to plead guilty without the earlier disclosure of the videotape. The court noted that appellant knew exactly what happened, yet decided to proceed to trial and inconvenience jurors-some "80 people."

         {¶ 7} The trial court additionally expressed its displeasure with the sentencing provisions contained in House Bill 86. The judge informed appellant: "I think you should go to prison. I think it should be for the maximum, and I think you should get your automatic appellate rights and see what they do." The court continued:

Mr. Taylor, you are a master manipulator, I see them all the time in here. But I see few as good as you. You are oblivious, you are self-serving. In order to protect the public from future crimes by you for awhile, and without the ability to send you to prison, to maybe shock your conscience, nothing has ever shocked your conscience. You're in jail for six months, we have a dead man, his family is grieving, and you're lit up on State Route 32 with heroine [sic] and syringes and doing heroine [sic] in the back of the patrol car.

         The court thus sentenced appellant to serve four years of community control, two hundred forty hours of community service, pay a $750 fine, serve one hundred sixty days in county jail, and serve a ...


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