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State v. Beckwith

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

June 15, 2017

STATE OF OHIO PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
GREGORY E. BECKWITH DEFENDANT-APPELLANT

         Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case Nos. CR-16-603321-A and CR-16-604159-A

          FOR APPELLANT Gregory E. Beckwith, pro se.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga County Prosecutor By: Anne Kiran Mikhaiel Assistant County Prosecutor.

          BEFORE: McCormack, J., Keough, A.J., and Stewart, J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          TIM McCORMACK, J.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant Gregory Beckwith appeals from the judgment of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas in two separate trial court cases. In Cuyahoga C.P. No. CR-16-604159-A, he was convicted of menacing by stalking and related offenses. In Cuyahoga C.P. No. CR-16-603321-A, he was convicted of failure to verify his address as a sex offender. After a review of the record and applicable law, we affirm his convictions in CR-604159, but reverse his sentence in CR-603321 and remand the matter for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. In the following, we address these two cases in turn.[1]

         I. CR-604159 (Menacing by Stalking)

         {¶2} In CR-604159, the victim of the stalking case was a patient services representative in the Orthopedic Clinic at MetroHealth Hospital. For several months appellant would sit on a bench near her work area and stared at her while she worked. On one of these occasions he exposed his penis and masturbated. Appellant was charged with one count of burglary (Count 1), two counts of menacing by stalking (Counts 2 and 3), and one count of public indecency (Count 4). Count 2 contained a furthermore specification of prior conviction of menacing by stalking; Count 3 contained a furthermore specification of trespassing.

         {¶3} This stalking matter was tried to the bench. The victim testified that, beginning in June 2014, she started to notice a man, who always wore the same clothes -a black T-shirt, black shorts, Nike sandals or flip-flops, sitting on the bench in the hallway outside her desk area. Her desk is separated from the hallway by a glass window. Several times a day every day, appellant would be sitting on the bench staring at her. On August 1, 2014, a Friday, as she was closing the clinic by herself around 5:00 p.m., she looked out to the hallway and saw appellant sitting on the bench staring inside the clinic. When she glanced over, he reached inside his pants, pulled out his penis, and started to masturbate. Startled, she immediately called her supervisor. When the supervisor came over and picked up the phone to call the police, appellant quickly got up and left.

         {¶4} The victim testified she was "scared" and "terrified." She asked her sister, who also worked at MetroHealth, to accompany her to her car. As they were walking out, she saw appellant passing by her. Shaking, she kept walking and looking behind her to make sure he was not following her to her car. She was so "creeped out" by the incident that she did not leave her house the entire weekend. On Monday, August 4, when she went back to work, appellant appeared again on the bench at 10:00 a.m., staring at her. "Shaken" and "scared, " she alerted a coworker. When the coworker picked up the phone to call the police, appellant immediately left.

          {¶5} A coworker testified that, prior to the August 1 incident, the victim pointed appellant out to her and told her "[t]hat's the man if anything happens." Two other coworkers testified about an event on September 3, 2014, which led to appellant's apprehension. Around the time when the victim was about to come to work and clock in, they saw appellant sitting on a bench next to the time clock located in the hallway around the corner from the Orthopedic Clinic. They alerted a MetroHealth police officer of appellant's presence. When the officer approached, appellant quickly got up and walked away. The officer chased him and eventually apprehended him.

         {¶6} The victim testified that, after the incident, it was "terrifying" just to look at the bench in the hallway from her desk. She developed sleep issues and once had a haunting nightmare where appellant was just sitting on a bench. She testified that two years later she was still frightened just from being in the courtroom with appellant.

         {¶7} The trial court found appellant not guilty of burglary (Count 1), but guilty of Count 2 (menacing by stalking with the furthermore specification of prior conviction) and Count 4 (public indecency). Regarding Count 3 (menacing by stalking with the furthermore specification of trespassing), the court found him guilty of menacing by stalking but found the state failed to prove the furthermore specification of trespassing. Appellant was sentenced to 18 months on Count 2, 180 days on Count 3, and 60 days on Count 4, to run concurrently.

         Appeal: Sufficiency of Evidence

          {¶8} Appellant raises a single assignment of error in CR-604159, arguing the state failed to present sufficient evidence to prove the element of the mental state of "knowingly" and the element of mental distress required for a conviction of menacing by stalking.

         {¶9} When considering a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, a reviewing court examines the evidence admitted at trial and determines whether such evidence, if believed, would convince the average mind of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Jenks, 61 Ohio St.3d 259, 574 N.E.2d 492 (1991), paragraph two of the syllabus. "The relevant inquiry is whether, after viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt." Id. A reviewing court is not to assess "whether the state's evidence is to be ...


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