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State v. Carson

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

August 17, 2017

STATE OF OHIO PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
DENICO CARSON DEFENDANT-APPELLANT

         Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-15-601882-A

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Carmen P. Naso Milton A. Kramer Law Clinic.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga County Prosecutor By: Erin Stone Jonathan M. McDonald Assistant County Prosecutors.

          BEFORE: McCormack, J., Keough, A.J., and Laster Mays, J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          TIM McCORMACK, J.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant Denico Carson appeals from his conviction of a one-year firearm specification. Carson contends the conviction was not supported by sufficient evidence. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm Carson's conviction.

         Procedural Background

         {¶2} Carson, along with codefendants Michael Taylor and Jerome Williams, were charged in a multicount indictment resulting from two "controlled drug buys" at the Southpark Mall on November 24, 2015, and December 9, 2015, that were managed by the Strongsville police department. The indictment as it related to Carson charged as follows: Count 1 - trafficking in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A)(1); Count 2 -trafficking in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A)(2); Count 3 - drug possession in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A); Count 4 - trafficking in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A)(1); Count 5 -trafficking in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A)(2); Count 6 - drug possession in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A); Count 8 - having weapons while under disability in violation of R.C. 2923.13(A)(3); Count 10 - carrying concealed weapons in violation of R.C. 2923.12(A)(2); Count 11 - improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle in violation of R.C. 2923.16(B); and Count 12 - possessing criminal tools in violation of R.C. 2923.24(A). Several counts contained forfeiture specifications, and Counts 5 and 6 contained firearm specifications.

         {¶3} The trial court granted defense counsel's Crim.R. 29 motion as it related to Counts 8 (weapons while under disability) and 10 (carrying concealed weapon) and the firearm specification attached to Count 6 (possession), but the court denied counsel's motion as it pertained to the firearm specification in Count 5 (trafficking). The jury found Carson not guilty of Count 11 (improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle). The jury, however, found Carson guilty of Counts 1 through 6, and 12, and the firearm specification attached to Count 5 (trafficking).

         {¶4} It is the latter conviction - the firearm specification on Count 5 - that Carson appeals. Carson argues in his sole assignment of error that his conviction for the firearm specification was not supported by sufficient evidence.

         Evidence at Trial

         {¶5} Officer Jason Glover of the Strongsville police department testified that on December 9, 2015, the department orchestrated a drug buy with Carson, through the use of a confidential informant at the SouthPark Mall. Officer Glover watched Carson and Carson's two codefendants exit a vehicle in the mall parking lot and walk toward the front of Dillard's department store, where they entered the store. The informant purchased 1.87 grams of heroin from Carson with the police department's $320 of "control money." The officer then observed Carson and his codefendants exit the building and get into a Chevy Tahoe, which was a large SUV that contained three rows of seats. Carson, the driver, drove the vehicle to Route 82, toward I-71. At this point, Officer Glover and the takedown team of officers began to follow Carson at a distance. Officer Glover testified that while awaiting orders to stop the vehicle from the lead officer, Carson ran a red light on Route 82 at the I-71 overpass.

         {¶6} Officer Zaki Hazou, who was nearby in a marked police cruiser, observed Carson make an "abrupt lane change." At that point, Officer Hazou activated his lights and siren. Carson then proceeded through a red light. Officer Hazou testified that Carson "did not stop until [the vehicle] almost got to the ramp that goes northbound." He stated that Carson proceeded for approximately 10 seconds without stopping and the vehicle "wasn't speeding up, but it wasn't stopping right away either." The officer stated that the Tahoe came to a stop at the I-71 overpass when one of the takedown vehicles blocked Carson from entering the interstate. Officer Hazou then pulled up immediately to the rear of Carson's vehicle, preventing Carson from being able to back up. Officer Hazou waited in his patrol car until the takedown team reached the Tahoe, and he then provided rear security while the other officers approached Carson's vehicle.

         {¶7} Officer Michael Mendise was part of the takedown team, and he observed the suspect's vehicle leave the mall parking lot and "accelerate at a high rate of speed." After one of the police vehicles blocked Carson's vehicle and prevented it from moving, Officer Mendise approached the front windshield of the Tahoe, in order to secure the driver, and he observed silhouettes through the tinted windows. Officer Mendise testified that as another officer began breaking the tinted windows of the SUV, he observed a male behind the driver, in the second row of seats, reach back into the third row. This passenger was later identified as codefendant Michael Taylor. Officer Mendise testified that he believed, based upon ...


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