FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF
LORAIN, OHIO CASE No. 14CR090763
P. WILL, Prosecuting Attorney, and NATASHA RUIZ GUERRIERI,
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellant.
MICHAEL J. DUFF, Attorney at Law, for Appellee.
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
S. CALLAHAN, Judge
Appellant, the State of Ohio, appeals from the judgment of
the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas, granting Appellee,
Vittorio Soto's, motion to suppress. For the reasons set
forth below, this Court reverses.
Mr. Soto was indicted on two counts of rape involving a
person less than 10 years of age. Prior to his arrest, Mr.
Soto was interviewed by Detective Tabitha Angello at the
Lorain Police Department. During the interview, Mr. Soto gave
a videotaped statement wherein he admitted the allegations.
Mr. Soto moved to suppress all of his statements made during
the interview, arguing that Detective Angello did not inform
him of his Miranda rights and his confession was
induced by direct and indirect promises made by Detective
Angello during the interview. The trial court concluded that
Mr. Soto's confession was not induced by direct or
indirect promises, but he was in custody and entitled to
Miranda rights when he made his confession. The
trial court granted Mr. Soto's motion to suppress.
The State timely appeals the trial court's ruling and
raises three assignments of error.
ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GRANTING MR. SOTO'S MOTION TO
SUPPRESS BECAUSE THE FINDINGS OF FACT ARE NOT SUPPORTED BY
COMPETENT, CREDIBLE EVIDENCE.
The State argues that the trial court committed two errors
relative to the findings of fact. First, the State asserts
the trial court's findings of fact regarding Detective
Angello's uniform are not supported by competent,
credible evidence. Second, the State maintains the trial
court failed to make certain findings of fact that were
supported by the evidence. This Court disagrees with the
first argument, but agrees with the second argument.
A motion to suppress evidence presents a mixed question of
law and fact. State v. Burnside, 100 Ohio St.3d 152,
2003-Ohio-5372, ¶ 8. "When considering a motion to
suppress, the trial court assumes the role of trier of fact
and is therefore in the best position to resolve factual
questions and evaluate the credibility of witnesses."
Id., citing State v. Mills, 62 Ohio St.3d
357, 366 (1992). Thus, a reviewing court gives deference to
and "must accept the trial court's findings of fact
if they are supported by competent, credible evidence."
Burnside at ¶ 8, citing State v.
Fanning, 1 Ohio St.3d 19, 20 (1982). "Accepting
these facts as true, the appellate court must then
independently determine, without deference to the conclusion
of the trial court, whether the facts satisfy the applicable
legal standard." Burnside at ¶ 8, citing
State v. McNamara, 124 Ohio App.3d 706, 710 (4th
Dist.1997). Therefore, this Court grants deference to the
trial court's findings of fact, but conducts a de novo
review of whether the trial court applied the appropriate
legal standard to those facts. State v. Booth, 151
Ohio App.3d 635, 2003-Ohio-829, ¶ 12 (9th Dist).
The State argues the trial court's finding of fact that
Detective Angello was in a uniform during Mr. Soto's
interview is not supported by competent, credible evidence.
"[A]n appellate court's review of the trial
court's findings of fact looks only for clear error,
giving due deference as to the inferences drawn from the
facts by the trial court." State v. Hunter, 151
Ohio App.3d 276, 2002-Ohio-7326, ¶ 24 (9th Dist), citing
State v. Russell, 127 Ohio App.3d 414, 416 (9th
The trial court found that during the interview Detective
Angello was "dressed in her police uniform, with her
badge on and * * * carrying her sidearm." On
cross-examination, Detective Angello testified that she was
not wearing her "actual police uniform" but was
wearing her "detective outfit" which included a
black shirt with a gold emblem saying "Lorain
Police" Additionally, she testified she was
"designated as a police officer, " and had a badge
and her service revolver on her at the time of the interview.
The video depicts Detective Angello wearing a black polo
shirt with a large gold emblem shaped like a badge on her
upper left chest and khaki pants.
The State takes issue with the trial court's finding that
Detective Angello was wearing "her police uniform."
While Detective Angello was not wearing a patrolman's
uniform, the evidence before the trial court reflected she
was dressed in her detective's uniform. The shirt
displayed a prominent emblem identifying Detective Angello as
a member of the Lorain Police Department. Additionally,
Detective Angello stated her clothing identified her as a
police officer. Her clothing, combined with the presence of
her badge and sidearm functionally created a "police
uniform." Accordingly, the trial court's finding of
fact that Detective Angello was wearing a police uniform is
supported by competent, credible evidence.
The State also argues the trial court failed to make any
findings regarding ten facts that were supported by Detective
Angello's testimony and/or the videotape of the interview
and such facts were relevant to making a determination of
whether Mr. Soto was in custody during the interview. Mr.
Soto concedes the trial court's findings of fact are
silent as to these ten facts, but argues these facts are not
relevant. Additionally, Mr. Soto asserts this ...