Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Ashtabula
Appeal from the Ashtabula County Court, Western District,
Case No. 2016 CRB 00204W Judgment: Affirmed.
Nicholas A. Iarocci, Ashtabula County Prosecutor, and Shelley
M. Pratt, Assistant Prosecutor, (For Plaintiff-Appellee).
A. Johnston, Eric Hall, (For Defendant-Appellant).
V. GRENDELL, J.
Defendant-appellant, Thomas D. Cookingham, appeals from his
convictions for Aggravated Menacing, Resisting Arrest,
Obstructing Official Business, Disorderly Conduct, and
Possession of Marijuana in the Ashtabula County Court,
Western District. The issues to be determined in this case
are whether convictions are supported by the weight and
sufficiency of the evidence when they rely primarily on the
testimony of the officers who witnessed the crimes, and
whether trial counsel is ineffective by choosing to pursue a
bench trial, failing to move for acquittal, and not
presenting witnesses for the defense. For the following
reasons, we affirm the decision of the lower court.
On March 15, 2016, a Complaint was filed, charging Cookingham
with two counts of Aggravated Menacing, misdemeanors of the
first degree, in violation of R.C. 2903.21(A); Resisting
Arrest, a misdemeanor of the second degree, in violation of
R.C. 2921.33(A); Obstructing Official Business, a misdemeanor
of the second degree, in violation of R.C. 2921.31(A);
Disorderly Conduct, a misdemeanor of the fourth degree, in
violation of R.C. 2917.11(A)(1); and Possession of Marijuana,
a minor misdemeanor, in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A).
A bench trial was held on February 28, 2017, during which the
following testimony was presented:
Deputy Evan Wolff of the Ashtabula County Sheriffs Office was
dispatched to a home in Geneva Township on March 5, 2016,
where a "disturbance" had been reported by
Cookingham's brother. Upon arrival, he observed
Cookingham, whom he recognized from past incidents, standing
in the driveway. After Wolff exited his patrol car,
Cookingham began yelling and cursing at him, saying
"what the [expletive] are you doing here? No one called
you." Wolff remained behind his car door due to
Cookingham's upset and agitated demeanor, and tried to
speak with him. At one point, Cookingham adopted a stance
that Wolff viewed as threatening, and hid his hand from
Wolffs view. Wolff gave Cookingham repeated orders to show
his hands but Cookingham did not comply.
Deputy Matthew Johns arrived at the scene simultaneously with
Wolff, after receiving a dispatch that Cookingham was acting
aggressively, threatening people, and was possibly under the
influence of drugs. After Wolff was unsuccessful, Johns
attempted to use de-escalation skills to calm Cookingham, but
he began "to act physically aggressive." Cookingham
started to walk toward a vehicle in the driveway with an open
door and Johns feared he may be "going to retrieve a
weapon." He told Cookingham he was under arrest and
tried to handcuff him. Cookingham "physically resisted
to the point where [Johns] was unable to control him
physically." Wolff described that Cookingham "began
to flail and try to spin out of [their] grasp."
According to Johns, Cookingham's arm "brushed
against" his duty weapon and he took Cookingham to the
ground to get better control.
According to both deputies, a search of Cookingham was
performed incident to arrest, which revealed two containers.
One contained burnt marijuana cigarettes, from which the odor
of marijuana could be smelled. In another container, there
was a substance that both officers recognized to be
Both officers testified that Johns "tapped the contents
of the containers" onto the hood of the police cruiser,
at which time Cookingham "blew it off of the hood"
and onto the gravel driveway, where much of it could not be
collected. Johns testified that the marijuana cigarettes were
not submitted to the lab since they would not be accepted for
According to Wolff, after Cookingham was arrested, he
threatened to kill Wolff and his family and rape his wife and
kids. Wolff took those threats "very seriously" and
felt that he and his family were in harm's way.
Johns testified that once Cookingham was placed in the
cruiser he also threatened to kill Johns and his family, as
well as rape his wife. Cookingham said he had prior
experience killing someone. Johns conceded that his police
report did not contain all statements Cookingham made, but
testified that Cookingham had used detail to describe raping
his wife and physically restraining his children while
molesting them. Johns is still fearful that Cookingham may
harm his family.
Following the trial, Cookingham was found guilty of all
counts. The court sentenced him to terms of 180 days in jail
for both counts of Aggravated Menacing, 90 days for Resisting
Arrest, 30 days for Obstructing Official Business, and 30
days for Disorderly Conduct. All ...