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City of Cleveland v. Wells

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

November 2, 2017

CITY OF CLEVELAND PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
CRAIG WELLS DEFENDANT-APPELLANT

         Criminal Appeal from the Cleveland Municipal Court Case No. 2016 TRD 024732

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Christina M. Joliat P.O.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Barbara A. Langhenry Cleveland Law Director By: Kimberly Barnett Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Lorraine Coyne Assistant City Prosecutor

          BEFORE: Blackmon, J., Kilbane, P.J., and Stewart, J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          PATRICIA ANN BLACKMON, JUDGE

         {¶1} Craig Wells ("Wells") appeals from the judgment of the Cleveland Municipal Court finding him guilty of driving under suspension in violation of Cleveland Codified Ordinance ("C.C.O.") 435.07, a traffic signal control under violation of C.C.O. 413.03, and having fictitious plates in violation of C.C.O. 435.09(f). He assigns the following as error for our review:

The verdict of the Cleveland Municipal Court is against the manifest weight of the evidence as the evidence presented was not sufficient as a matter of law for finding [Wells] guilty.

         {¶2} Having reviewed the arguments of the parties and the pertinent law, we affirm his convictions. The apposite facts follow.

         {¶3} On July 9, 2016, following a motor vehicle collision at the intersection of Brookpark and Greyton Roads, Wells was cited for driving under suspension, proceeding through a red light, and having fictitious plates. The matter was tried to the court on October 24, 2016.

         {¶4} Craig Tschappat testified that as he was leaving a wedding reception on Brookpark Road in Cleveland at approximately 10:15 p.m., he proceeded to his home in Bethesda, Ohio, approximately four hours away. He drove toward Interstate 480, and waited at a red light at the Greyton Road intersection. After the light turned green, and Tschappat began driving through the intersection with the right of way, his vehicle was struck broadside on the driver's side of the car. Tschappat testified that the entire driver's side of the vehicle was smashed inward. He crawled out of the vehicle through the passenger side. As Tschappat exited, Wells apologized "multiple times, " and said that he wasn't paying attention. They spoke for about two minutes. However, while en route to the hospital in the same ambulance, Tschappat heard Wells telling EMS personnel that he was not driving the vehicle involved in the collision. Tschappat later made a police report regarding the collision and informed police that Wells had initially apologized for the collision, then changed his story.

         {¶5} Cleveland Police Officer Ashley Serrano ("Officer Serrano") testified that she went to Fairview Hospital immediately after the collision to investigate what had happened. She observed Wells who did not "have much to say." A female was in the trauma room, and she said that she "was in the car" and was "a passenger." Officer Serrano learned that the vehicle, a 2005 Honda Civic, displayed license plates for a 2008 Chevrolet.

         {¶6} Cleveland Police Officer David Fox ("Officer Fox") learned that Wells's driver's license was under suspension at the time of the collision. According to LEADS information introduced into evidence, Wells's license was suspended from March 4, 2016 until March 4, 2017.

         {¶7} The officers issued citations to Wells for driving under suspension, a traffic control device violation, and having fictitious plates. He initially signed the citations in the wrong section then re-signed them.

         {¶8} Karen Diloreto ("Diloreto") testified on behalf of Wells and stated that she, and not Wells, was driving the 2005 Honda at the time of the collision. According to Diloreto, they were taking the vehicle, which was owned by her friend, Keith's father, to the gas station. Diloreto admitted that she did not tell police that she was driving the car, but she testified that she did not see any police at the ...


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