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State v. Craig

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Lake

December 11, 2017

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
JAMES D. CRAIG, Defendant-Appellant.

         Criminal Appeal from the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2015 CR 000634.

          Charles E. Coulson, Lake County Prosecutor, and Karen A. Sheppert, Paul E. Kaplan, and Taylir K Linden, Assistant Prosecutors, For Plaintiff-Appellee.

          Mandy J. Gwirtz, Mandy Gwirtz, LLC, For Defendant-Appellant.


          THOMAS R. WRIGHT, J.

         {¶1} Appellant, James D. Craig, appeals his conviction on eight felony sexual offenses, including rape and gross sexual imposition. Appellant challenges the sufficiency and manifest weight of the evidence, the trial court's failure to sever three charges, and two evidentiary rulings. We affirm.

         {¶2} Appellant and Jasmine Cleckner married in May 2003. Within a year, they had a daughter, J.C. Shortly afterward, they moved to a home in Leroy Township, Lake County, Ohio. Over the next five years they had two sons.

         {¶3} Through the years, Jasmine obtained a degree and had a full-time job working with computers. At some point, appellant returned to school to obtain his degree. Since he had more flexibility, he often cared for the children.

         {¶4} The Leroy Township home has three stories, three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Until May 2014, the upstairs bedroom was solely occupied by appellant's father. J.C. shared a bedroom with her two brothers and appellant and Jasmine shared the third bedroom.

         {¶5} Jasmine has two sisters, Lea Mitchell and Adrianna DiDomenico, both West Virginia residents. In July 2015, Lea visited Jasmine and their father, Carl Cleckner in Leroy. At the conclusion of the visit, J.C. traveled with Lea to West Virginia to spend a few weeks with her maternal grandmother, Jeanette DiDomenico. During the car ride, Lea observed J.C, then eleven, behaving differently than the last time she saw her. Instead of being talkative, J.C. was withdrawn and wore headphones throughout the trip.

         {¶6} At the time of this visit, Adrianna DiDomenico, 18 years old, resided with her mother, Jeanette, and father, William DiDomenico. Sensing issues, Jeanette asked Adrianna to talk with J.C. When Adrianna initially saw J.C, Adrianna sensed that J.C. had recently been crying and was upset. She persuaded J.C. to talk with her on the front porch. J.C. became even more upset and cried uncontrollably. J.C. ultimately told Adrianna that appellant had sexually molested her multiple times during the last eighteen months and described the nature of the acts.

         {¶7} After J.C. was calmer, Adrianna had her write the details. Jeanette then contacted the Child Advocacy Center in Charleston, West Virginia, and arranged for the center's director, Maureen Runyon, to interview J.C. During the recorded interview, J.C. again gave a detailed description of appellant's sexual abuse.

         {¶8} According to J.C, the behavior began one night when she awoke to appellant performing cunnilingus on her. Over the following weeks, appellant repeated this act numerous times in multiple locations in their Leroy home. J.C. further asserted that he tried to entice her into willing participation by promising her "benefits." For example, he would allow her additional time on the internet without parental controls. In time, appellant engaged in additional sexual acts: (1) rubbing his finger or a vibrator on her vaginal area; (2) inserting his finger into her vagina; (3) inserting the vibrator into her vagina; (4) forcing her to masturbate him; and (5) on one occasion, appellant placed his genitals on her lips, with J.C. refusing to open her mouth. J.C. further said that appellant had her "dress up" in her mother's lingerie and panties, pose provocatively, and that he photographed her using a red digital camera.

         {¶9} A few days after the interview, J.C. underwent a physical examination by a medical doctor. She had no physical signs of sexual abuse.

         {¶10} The information gathered was conveyed to the Lake County Sheriff's Department and used to obtain a search warrant for the Leroy residence. In executing the warrant following appellant's arrest, the authorities failed to locate digital photographs of J.C. However, they seized a red digital camera and the described vibrator. The authorities also found two computer disks containing 749 photographs/videos of child pornography, with many of pictures featuring girls appearing to be the same age as J.C., locked in a gun cabinet that Jasmine gifted to appellant.

         {¶11} Within three months of appellant's arrest, he was indicted on eleven counts including: three counts of rape, a first-degree felony under R.C. 2907.02(A)(1)(b); three counts of gross sexual imposition, a third-degree felony under R.C. 2907.05(A)(4); two counts of importuning, a third-degree felony under R.C. 2907.07(A) & (C)(1); one count of pandering obscenity involving a minor, a second-degree felony under R.C. 2907.321(A)(1); one count of pandering obscenity involving a minor, a fourth-degree felony under R.C. 2907.321(A)(5); and one count of pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor, a second-degree felony under R.C. 2907.322(A)(1).

         {¶12} In writing, J.C. claimed that appellant required her to view internet pornography on various devices and to draw pornographic images. During its investigation, the sheriffs department retained J.C.'s Kindle to review her Internet history. To access the Kindle, Jasmine asked J.C. to provide her the password. J.C. did so, but recanted her claim that appellant forced her to view pornographic material and acknowledged that she viewed the material herself out of curiosity. J.C. told her mother that she lied out of embarrassment. She also admitted that she lied about being required to draw pornographic images.

         {¶13} While the charges were pending, Jasmine continued to search and cleanout the Leroy home. In the process, she found a small baggy containing 36 pubic hairs in appellant's baseball card collection stored in the master bedroom closet and a garbage bag in the garage attic containing multiple pairs of toddler size 3T underwear belonging to J.C., along with a t-shirt belonging to appellant. Jasmine testified that J.C. wore 3T until the fourth grade, and that she normally discarded J.C.'s underwear when she outgrew them.

         {¶14} A six-day jury trial went forward in August 2016. In addition to J.C.'s testimony, the state called Adrianna to testify regarding the statements J.C. made to her during J.C.'s initial disclosure. The state also presented considerable evidence as to changes in J.C.'s personality both before and after her disclosure. Appellant rested without presentation of evidence. Appellant was found not guilty of the first of the two importuning counts and two of the three pandering counts, but guilty of the remaining eight counts.

         {¶15} The trial court ordered an aggregate prison term of 91.5 years to life: three terms of twenty-five years to life on the rape counts; three five-year terms on the gross sexual imposition counts; and eighteen months on the pandering count, all time to be served ...

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