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State v. Pierce

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Third District, Seneca

June 12, 2017

STATE OF OHIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
URIAH L. PIERCE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

         Appeal from Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court Trial Court No. CRB16-0321AB

          James M. Ruhlen for Appellant

          Richard H. Palau for Appellee

          OPINION

          WILLAMOWSKI, J.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant Uriah L. Pierce ("Pierce") appeals the judgment of the Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court, alleging that his convictions for obstructing official business and resisting arrest were not supported by sufficient evidence and were against the manifest weight of the evidence. For the reasons set forth below, the judgment of the lower court is affirmed.

         Facts and Procedural History

         {¶2} On March 9, 2016, Lawrence Blackful ("Blackful")-who was in Tiffin, Ohio-had a FaceTime conversation with his father. Tr. 82-83, 97. During this conversation, Blackful was "threatening to hang himself and had "something tied around his neck." Tr. 56, 83. The father, fearful that Blackful was going to harm himself, called the police to report that Blackful may attempt to commit suicide. Id. Sergeant Laverne Keefe ("Keefe") and Officer Eric Aller ("Aller") were dispatched to perform a welfare check on Blackful. Tr. 57. At roughly 3:00 a.m., the police arrived at Pierce's house, which is where Blackful was reportedly staying. Tr. 57. As Keefe and Aller approached the house, Keefe observed a lighted room in the second story of the house and heard a male screaming. Id. Aller knocked on the front door. Tr. 57, 98.

         {¶3} Pierce opened the front door, told Aller that he was not Blackful, and said that Blackful was upstairs. Tr. 98-99. Aller then asked Pierce to go inside and get Blackful. Tr. 99. At this time, Pierce agreed to cooperate and returned into the house to get Blackful. Id. While Pierce was inside the house, Aller radioed dispatch to get a physical description of Blackful. Tr. 100. Dispatch responded, informing Aller that Blackful was "[a]pproximately 5'6, 130 pounds, black hair, brown eyes, and African-American." Id. This description closely matched the appearance of Pierce, and the police officers began to wonder if Pierce was Blackful. Tr. 101.

         {¶4} When Pierce returned to the front door several minutes later, the police asked him if he was the subject, Lawrence Blackful. Id. Pierce said, "No. That subject is upstairs and he doesn't want to talk to you guys." Id. Keefe then asked Pierce if they could go inside to speak with Blackful, but Pierce refused to let them in the house. Id. At this point, both Keefe and Aller believed that Pierce was, in fact, Blackful. Tr. 60, 101. At trial, Aller testified that Pierce seemed to be behaving deceptively in this interaction. Tr. 101. Keefe then asked Pierce to identify himself and explained that he needed to provide this information because the police were there to investigate a complaint. Tr. 101. Keefe informed Pierce that he could be arrested if he did not comply with the police. Tr. 72, 101.

         {¶5} At this time, Pierce refused to identify himself to the police, darted into the house, and attempted to shut the door behind him. Tr. 61, 84, 101-102. Keefe reached out and stopped the door from closing. Tr. 61. Keefe and Aller pushed the door open and entered the house. Tr. 61, 102. Officer Rebecca Timm ("Timm"), who had arrived at the scene shortly after Keefe and Aller had gotten there, saw Keefe and Aller enter the house. Tr. 84. Timm then entered into the house where Keefe and Aller were attempting to subdue Pierce. Tr. 84-85. At trial, Keefe described what happened after he entered the house, saying,

When I grabbed him, he fell to the ground. He tried to pull away from me. And in the process, he fell to the ground. We had a very hard time trying to control him in the way that he was moving, rolling around, pulling his arms away from us. And I just kept yelling at him, 'Quit resisting arrest. You're under arrest.'

Tr. 61. During this altercation, Pierce was saying, "Get off me." Tr. 103. Pierce also said, "B****, don't touch me, you ain't even cute" to Timm. Tr. 62, 103.

         {¶6} Timm and Aller then assisted Keefe in handcuffing Pierce. Tr. 86. After the officers had subdued Pierce, a woman came down the stairs. Tr. 63. When he saw her, Keefe pointed to Pierce and asked the woman if she could identify him. Id. Pierce then called out, "Don't tell them s***." Id. The woman, however, was unable to identify Pierce, saying she only knew him as "Squiddy." Id. After Pierce had been removed from the house, Blackful came downstairs at Keefe's request and identified himself. Tr. 64. The police then completed the welfare check. Tr. 87.

         {¶7} On March 9, 2016, Pierce was charged with obstruction of official business in violation of R.C. 2921.31(A) and resisting arrest in violation of R.C. 2921.33(A). Doc. 1, 2. The jury trial was set for November 2, 2016. Tr. 1. At trial, Keefe, Aller, and Timm testified as to what they had witnessed on that night. Tr. 54, 80, 95. Pierce was found guilty and sentenced on November 2, 2016. Doc. 52. On November 29, 2016, Pierce filed a notice of appeal. Doc. 56. On appeal, Pierce raises three assignments of error, which read as follow:

First Assignment of Error
The record contains insufficient evidence to support appellant's conviction for obstructing official business.
Second Assignment of Error
The record contains insufficient evidence to support appellant's conviction ...

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