Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Carmen P. Naso Milton A. Kramer Law
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
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
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
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).
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.
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
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.
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 ...