Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton
Appeal From: Hamilton County Municipal Court TRIAL NO.
16CRB-2972, Judgment Appealed From Is: Affirmed in Part,
Reversed in Part, and Cause
Boggs Muething, City Solicitor, Natalia Harris, City
Prosecutor, and Christopher Liu, Appellate Director, for
Raymond T. Faller, Hamilton County Public Defender, and
Demetra Stamatakos, Assistant Public Defender, for
Wesley Saunders appeals the judgment of the Hamilton County
Municipal Court, convicting him, after a bench trial, of
assault. We affirm the trial court's finding of guilt,
but we reverse the sentence, and remand the cause to the
trial court for resentencing because the trial court did not
afford Saunders his right of allocution.
On December 13, 2015, Wesley Saunders was involved in a car
accident. While he was stopped at a red light, he was hit
from behind by a car driven by Laverda Taylor. The impact of
the crash caused Saunders' car to hit the car in front of
him and caused his air bag to deploy. His car started
smoking, and Saunders exited from the vehicle.
Saunders confronted Taylor and became angry and upset when he
learned she had no car insurance. While Saunders was arguing
with Taylor, Alfred Crawford, a passenger in Taylor's
car, got out of the car. Crawford was approached by the
driver of the car that was struck by Saunders' car, who
demanded money and tried to reach into Crawford's pocket.
After pushing the third driver's hand away, Crawford
noticed Saunders becoming increasingly confrontational with
Both Crawford and Taylor believed that Saunders was going to
strike her, so Crawford approached and asked Saunders to back
away from Taylor. Crawford and Saunders began to fight.
During the altercation, Crawford, who admitted he had been
drinking tequila earlier that evening, tripped on the curb
and fell to the ground. While he was on the ground, Saunders
put him in a chokehold. While Crawford was on the ground, he
was repeatedly kicked and punched. Eventually, Crawford lost
consciousness. When the police arrived, Crawford was taken to
the hospital to be treated. Crawford suffered a severe
concussion, a sprained knee, and multiple bruises around his
eyes, neck, and elbow.
At trial, Saunders testified that Crawford confronted him and
accused him of causing the accident. Saunders, who believed
Crawford was intoxicated, stated that Crawford had swung at
him first. Saunders responded by engaging in a fight and
putting Crawford in a chokehold to restrain him until the
police arrived. Saunders denied hitting or kicking Crawford
while he restrained him, but testified that the third driver
Both Crawford and Taylor testified that Saunders hit Crawford
first, and that Saunders continued to hit and kick Crawford
after he was on the ground. After a bench trial, the court
found Saunders guilty. The trial court determined that
Crawford's testimony of the events was more credible than
The court continued the case for sentencing and requested a
presentence investigation ("PSI"). The victim did
not submit to a victim-impact statement for inclusion in the
PSI. At the sentencing hearing, the court invited
Saunders' counsel to speak in mitigation. However, the
court did not address Saunders and ask whether he wished to
make a statement. The court sentenced Saunders to a suspended
jail term of 180 days and one year of community control. The
sentence was stayed pending appeal.
In his first assignment of error, Saunders contends that the
conviction was against the manifest weight of the evidence
because Crawford started the fight, and Saunders merely
defended himself. Saunders primarily ...