Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case
Nos. CR-15-597529-A, CR-15-597826-A, and CR-15-599941-A
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT David L. Doughten David L. Doughten
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga
County Prosecutor BY: Ryan J. Bokoch Assistant County
BEFORE: Jones, J., McCormack, P.J., and Blackmon, J.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
A. JONES, SR., J.
Defendant-appellant, Antonio Houston, appeals his conviction
on multiple counts. We affirm.
Procedural History and Facts
In 2015, Houston was indicted in three separate but related
cases. In Cuyahoga C.P. No. CR-15-597826-A, Houston was
charged in the July 6, 2015 shooting involving Maurice
Bradford and Larry Bradford. In Cuyahoga C.P. No.
CR-15-599941-A, Houston was charged in the July 8, 2015
shooting involving Brad Bradford. In Cuyahoga C.P. No.
CR-15-597529-A, Houston was charged in the subsequent
recovery of the firearm used in the July 8, 2015 incident.
The state moved to consolidate the three cases. The trial
court granted the state's motion and the case proceeded
to a jury trial at which the following pertinent evidence was
In the summer of 2015, the Fleet and Broadway divisions of
the Heartless Felons gang in the city of Cleveland were at
war. Previously, members of the two sects got along; they
grew up together and attended the same schools. But a
division occurred sometime in the spring of 2015. On May 4,
2015, Pedro "Dro" Barnes, a member of Broadway, was
shot and killed, allegedly by a Fleet member. Antwoine
"Ballzy" Palmer was shot at the same time, but
survived. On June 20, 2015, Fleet member Arthur
"Archie" Davis was shot and killed, allegedly by a
Houston, a.k.a. "Papa, " was part of the Broadway
sect. People also knew Houston by the last name Curry,
perhaps because he had a brother with that last name. Houston
had dated the same girl as Fleet member Brad Bradford. Brad
had four brothers: Lawrence Black and Maurice, Larry, and
Maurice, Larry, and Nolando lived with their mother in an
up/down house on East 85th Street in Cleveland. The upstairs
was their apartment, and the downstairs was an informal bar
run by their mother. On July 6, 2015, Maurice and Larry were
sitting outside. Larry is a paraplegic from a previous
shooting and was sitting either in his wheelchair or in a
chair next to his wheelchair.
At some point, Maurice called 911 and reported that
"Antonio Curry" had just driven by and shot at him
and Larry. Maurice's six-year-old daughter was also
present, and Larry fell out of his chair to cover and protect
her from the gunfire. The brothers thought they heard six
gunshots, but no one was hit and a single bullet hole was
found in the garage.
Cleveland police officers Theresa Crews and Cynthia Cuba
responded to the scene. When the police arrived, Maurice told
Patrolwoman Crews that "Antonio Curry" had shot at
him while driving by in a black SUV. Larry told Patrolwoman
Cuba that the SUV drove by and a man shot at him from the
driver's side rear window using a chrome handgun. Through
investigation, the Cleveland police learned that
"Antonio Curry, " was really Antonio Houston.
Two days later, on July 8, 2015, Brad Bradford was in the
alley behind his house when another drive-by shooting
occurred. Cleveland police officer Antonio Andiano responded
to the call. When Patrolman Andiano arrived, he saw 30 to 40
cartridge casings lying in the street. He spoke with Brad,
who did not want to give him any details of the shooting.
Brad did, however, tell his girlfriend, Rodnesha, about the
shooting. Rodnesha testified that Brad told her Papa was
riding in a black Kia truck with two women. They drove by him
and "shot up" Rodnesha's Hyundai Sonata that
Brad was driving. Rodnesha was not in the car at the time of
the shooting. When Rodnesha got her car out of impound she
counted 13 bullet holes in her car.
On July 13, 2015, Cleveland Heights police officer Michael
Mathis was flagged down by a scared female who reported that
she was stopped at a traffic light when a man in the backseat
of the car next to her pointed a gun at her and motioned her
to pull over. While the female was talking to Patrolman
Mathis, the subject car drove by and the woman pointed the
car out to the officer. Patrolman Mathis pulled the car over
without incident. Patrolman Mathis arrested the man in the
backseat, Antonio Houston, who the victim positively
identified as the man who had just pointed the gun at her.
Patrolman Mathis found two loaded guns, a 9 mm Ruger and a
Kel-Tec 9 mm, in a purse on the front passenger seat floor.
Keyonna Anderson, who had been sitting in the front passenger
seat, testified that the guns inside the purse were hers. She
claimed she bought them on the street for protection. She
testified that she could not remember when she bought the
guns or describe what they looked like. She further claimed
that after she bought the guns, she put them in her purse and
put her purse up on a shelf. It was not until the day they
were pulled over that she had pulled her purse down off the
shelf; she simply forgot there were two loaded guns in her
Kristen Koeth, a scientific examiner with the Cleveland
Police Department's forensic laboratory, testified that
six cartridge casings located at the scene of the July 8,
2015 shooting came from gun recovered during Houston's
July 13, 2015 arrest.
Detective Timothy Toler testified about his investigation
into the crimes. He explained that when he initially tried to
contact Maurice, Larry, and Brad, the men would not talk to
him. Detective Toler found Larry in a hospital getting
treatment for an unrelated illness, and it was then that
Larry positively identified Houston as the shooter in a photo
lineup. Larry signed his name to the photo lineup and wrote
"Papa" next to Houston's photo. Brad finally
spoke to the detective in August 2015, after he was the
victim of another shooting in which he was
injured. Brad did not, however, testify at trial.
Nolando, who was not home during the July 6th shooting,
learned of it shortly after it happened and testified at
trial. At first, Nolando denied recognizing Houston in the
courtroom. The state was allowed to treat Nolando as a
hostile witness, and upon further questioning, Nolando
admitted he knew Houston as "Pops" and that his
brother Maurice had told him that "Papa" had shot
at him. Nolando admitted he was scared to testify because he
was afraid of retaliation. Nolando stated that testifying is
"snitching" and "snitches" "get, you
know, shot at."
Larry testified at trial but only after he was brought in
pursuant to a witness warrant. Larry testified that contrary
to what he initially told police, he did not remember who
shot him. He could not remember identifying the shooter in a
photo lineup or during police interviews. But he knew who
Antonio Houston was and reluctantly identified him in court.
Upon further questioning, Larry remembered that when he spoke
to the investigating detective about the case, he stated
"Papa" was the shooter.
Larry admitted that he and his brother Maurice are associated
with Fleet and, back in July 2015, Fleet and Broadway had a
"beef." Larry conceded that he did not want to be
seen as a snitch and if he came into court and testified with
a "good memory, " he would be seen as a snitch.
Detective Alfred Johnson of the Cleveland Police
Department's Gang Impact Unit testified that he obtained
a search warrant for Houston's phone and found several
photos and videos pertinent to the shootings. Detective
Johnson identified a video shot on July 5, 2015, in which
Houston and Antwoine Palmer were holding guns. Houston was
holding a 9 mm Ruger, which Detective Johnson testified was
the same one used in the July 8, 2015 shooting involving
Brad. Detective Johnson was confident it was the same gun
because of the unique markings on the handle. During the
video, both Houston and Palmer can be seen throwing up
"gang signs" associated with the Heartless Felons.
Detective Johnson identified a second video shot on July 7,
2015, in which Houston can be seen holding a gun and stating:
"F[---] Archie." According to the detective, Archie
was associated with Fleet and was a friend of the Bradford
brothers; as previously mentioned, Archie was shot and killed
in June 2015. In another video also shot on July 7, Houston
stated: "F[---] Archie, f[---] the Fleet n[---] and
f[---] Wayne Bang and RIP Dro." According to Detective
Johnson, Pedro "Dro" Barnes was part of Broadway
and was shot and killed in May 2015.
In a video shot July 26, 2015, after Houston's arrest and
filmed in jail, Houston can be seen stating: "F[---] the
Fleet n[---], LOH." "LOH, " Detective Johnson
explained, stands for "Land of the Heartless, "
which is a reference to the Heartless Felons gang.
The detective also identified a series of texts that were
exchanged minutes after the July 6, 2015 shooting at Maurice
and Leonard's house. "Ma, " identity unknown,
texted Houston, "I heard what you did. Stop it."
Houston replied, "What is you talking about." Ma
responded, "TB." Detective Johnson explained that
Maurice's nickname is Teddy Bear and is often abbreviated
Detective Johnson discussed the difficulties of the
investigation, including the reluctance of victims and
witnesses to come forward. He explained that
"snitching" when "it comes to people in a
criminal life style" means that if someone were to shoot
them and they were to tell the police who just shot them, it
would be considered snitching and a reason for retaliation.
In CR-15-597529-A, the jury convicted Houston of improper
handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle, carrying a
concealed weapon, and aggravated menacing. The jury acquitted
him of receiving stolen property and one count each of
improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle and
carrying a concealed weapon. The court found Houston guilty
of having weapons while under disability and of the repeat
violent offender specification as charged in the underlying
indictment. The court sentenced Houston to a total of 36
months in prison on this case.
In CR-15-597826-A, the jury convicted Houston of two counts
of felonious assault with one-, three-, and five-year firearm
specifications; two counts of attempted felonious assault
with one-, three-, and five-year firearm specifications;
improper discharge of a firearm at or into a habitation or
school with one-, three-, and five-year firearm
specifications; carrying a concealed weapon; and discharging
a weapon on or near a prohibited premise with one-, three-,
and five-year firearm specifications. The court found Houston
guilty of having weapons while under disability and of the
repeat violent offender specification as charged in the
underlying indictment. After merging many of the counts for
the purposes of sentencing, the court sentenced Houston to a
total of 44 years in this case to run consecutive to the
36-month sentence in CR-15-597529-A.
In CR-15-599941-A, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of
felonious assault, including one-, three-, and five-year
firearm specifications, discharging a weapon on or near a
prohibited premises, and improper handling of a firearm in a
motor vehicle. The court found Houston guilty of having
weapons while under disability and of the repeat violent
offender specification as charged in the underlying
indictment. The trial ...