Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Ashtabula
Appeal from the Ashtabula County Court of Common Pleas, Case
No. 2013 CR 00156.
Nicholas A. Iarocci, Ashtabula County Prosecutor, and Shelley
M. Pratt, (For Plaintiff-Appellee).
Richard E. Hackerd, (For Defendant-Appellant).
CYNTHIA WESCOTT RICE, P.J.
Appellant, Jennifer L. Thomason, appeals from the judgment of
the Ashtabula County Court of Common Pleas, based on a jury
verdict, finding her guilty of aggravated possession of
drugs, and illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for
the manufacture of drugs, and sentencing her to a total term
of five years imprisonment. Appellant contends her trial
counsel was ineffective for failing to move to suppress the
evidence against her, and that her convictions are premised
on insufficient evidence, and are against the manifest weight
of the evidence. We affirm.
On March 5, 2015, Detective Sean Ward of the Ashtabula County
Sheriffs Department received an email tip that Josh Hall was
engaged in the manufacture of methamphetamine at the Motel 6
in Harpersfield Township, Ashtabula County, Ohio. Detective
Ward contacted Detective George Cleveland. The detectives
went to the motel, and spoke with the desk clerk, who told
them that Mr. Hall had rented two rooms on the second floor,
and that an associate of his had rented one on the first
floor. She further advised that Mr. Hall had checked out. She
gave the detectives a pass key card, which they used to
explore the first floor room, No. 124, which had some
personal items in it, but no signs of methamphetamine
manufacture. They proceeded to the second floor and checked
one of Mr. Hall's former rooms, No. 227, which they found
Finally, the detectives went to Room No. 228. The pass key
card opened the door, but it was latched from inside. Upon
identifying themselves, a woman (appellant), asked them to
wait while she got dressed. The detectives waited three to
five minutes, hearing shuffling noises in the room, before
Appellant opened the door and came out into the hallway. She
and Detective Ward moved a few feet down the hallway to talk.
Detective Cleveland remained at the door. He saw a man
sitting on one of the beds in the room, and asked the man,
Michael Dixon, to come to the door. The detective informed
him of the complaint, and asked to see his identification.
While Mr. Dixon retrieved the identification, Detective
Cleveland smelled the odor of methamphetamine emanating from
the room. Detective Cleveland, while a member of the
Ashtabula County Sheriffs Department, was also assigned to a
task force of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency in
Cleveland, acting as the county liaison. He has investigated
more than 100 methamphetamine labs. Detective Cleveland
followed Mr. Dixon into the room, and spotted two Mason jars
on the floor, one filled with clear liquid. This was later
identified as a methamphetamine precursor. He also spotted a
gray back pack. The detective testified at trial that the
elements of methamphetamine labs are often disassembled and
transported in backpacks.
Mr. Dixon and appellant were arrested. Detective Cleveland
contacted the local fire department to come ventilate the
room; put on his protective gear; and began processing the
scene, finding the equipment and elements for manufacturing
methamphetamine. After he took Mr. Dixon and appellant
downstairs, Detective Ward put on his protective gear, and
joined the search. The detectives later took certain evidence
from Room No. 221, which had also been rented by Mr. Hall,
when advised by cleaning staff the room contained suspicious
items. They also found equipment relating to the operation of
a methamphetamine lab in a locked box in Mr. Dixon's
On April 2, 2015, appellant was indicted on three counts. The
first was for illegal manufacture of drugs, in violation of
R.C. 2925.04, a first-degree felony; the second was for
aggravated possession of drugs, in violation of R.C. 2925.11,
a second-degree felony; the third was for illegal assembly or
possession of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs, in
violation of R.C. 2925.04, a second-degree felony. Appellant
pleaded not guilty to all charges. Plea negotiations failed.
A jury trial commenced January 4, 2016, and concluded the
following day. On appellant's Crim.R. 29 motion, the
trial court dismissed the first count of the indictment. The
trial court further dismissed a specification in the third
count, alleging the criminal activity therein had occurred in
the vicinity of a juvenile or school, reducing the third
count to a third degree felony.
The jury subsequently found appellant guilty on the second
and third counts of the indictment. A sentencing hearing went
forward on March 1, 2016. By a judgment entry filed March 7,
2016, the trial court sentenced appellant to three years
imprisonment on the second count, and five years imprisonment
on the third count, that term being mandatory. The trial
court further assessed court costs, but waived the mandatory
fine attached to the third count, informed appellant she
would be subject to three years post release control, and
suspended her driver's license for six months.
Appellant timely noticed this appeal, assigning three errors.
The first provides:
"Defendant-appellant was denied the effective assistance
of counsel as guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth
Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section X
of the Ohio Constitution where his [sic] counsel failed to
file a motion to suppress."
Appellant contends she was prejudiced by counsel's
failure to file a motion to suppress evidence based upon the
warrantless entry into the hotel room in which she and the
contraband were found.
To establish ineffective assistance of counsel, appellant
must show that counsel's actions fell below an objective
standard of reasonableness and that appellant was prejudiced
as a result. Strickland v. Washington,466 U.S. 668,
687-88, 693 (1984). Prejudice occurs where there is a
reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors,
the result of the trial would have been different.
Id. at 694. When the ineffective assistance claim is
predicated upon the failure to submit a motion to suppress
particular evidence, "'an appellant must point to
evidence in the record showing there was a reasonable
probability the result of [the] trial would have differed if
the motion had been filed or pursued.'" State v.
Woodard, 11th Dist. Ashtabula No. 2009-A-0047,
2010-Ohio-2949, ¶14, quoting State v. Gaines,
11th Dist. Lake Nos. 2006-L-059 and 2006-L-060,
2007-Ohio-1375, ¶17. "Hence, to establish
prejudice, an appellant must prove more than a mere
possibility that the motion ...