Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Ashtabula
Appeal from the Ashtabula County Court of Common Pleas, Case
No. 2017 CR 00070. Judgment: Affirmed.
Nicholas A. Iarocci, Ashtabula County Prosecutor, and Shelley
M. Pratt, Assistant Prosecutor, For Plaintiff-Appellee.
E. Tarighati, Law Offices of Ariana E. Tarighati, L.P.A., For
R. WRIGHT, J.
Appellant, Emmit Harold Aldrich, appeals his vehicular
homicide and failure to stop after an accident convictions.
He contests the validity of his no contest plea, imposition
of the maximum prison term for failure to stop, and claims
ineffective assistance of trial counsel. We affirm.
On the evening of January 26, 2017, appellant, while
operating a vehicle on Mill Street in the City of Conneaut,
Ashtabula County, Ohio, hit a pedestrian crossing the road.
Appellant stopped, pulled the victim to the side of the road,
returned to his vehicle, and left without contacting the
authorities. The victim died due to injuries suffered in the
Appellant hid his vehicle in his girlfriend's garage in
the following days. The city police department, nevertheless,
determined that appellant was responsible. The grand jury
returned a four-count indictment, charging one count of
vehicular homicide, a first-degree misdemeanor; one count of
failure to stop after an accident, a second-degree felony;
and two counts of tampering with evidence, third-degree
After pleading not guilty, appellant moved the trial judge
for recusal due to bias and knowing the victim. In an
accompanying affidavit, appellant averred that the trial
judge was a municipal court judge for twenty-six years before
joining the common pleas bench and that during those years
appellant appeared before him in multiple criminal cases.
In overruling the motion, the trial judge denied being
acquainted with the victim. The trial judge noted that
appellant appeared before him on six occasions at the
municipal court, and that each case ended in appellant
pleading guilty to a criminal or traffic offense, the last
case being four years ago. The trial judge concluded that he
could be fair and impartial.
During a pretrial hearing, the state offered to dismiss the
two "tampering" counts in return for a no contest
plea to the remaining counts. Appellant accepted the terms
and executed a written plea agreement. The trial court held a
plea hearing during which the court informed appellant of the
constitutional rights he would be waiving in entering the no
contest plea. Appellant was informed that he could not be
compelled to testify, but was not told of his right to
testify if he so chose. At the conclusion of the hearing, the
trial court accepted the no contest plea and found him guilty
of vehicular homicide and failure to stop after an accident.
At sentencing, appellant expressed remorse and said that he
did not see the victim until after his vehicle struck her. He
further stated that he moved her from the roadway due to
concern that another car would hit her, and that he left the
scene of the accident because he panicked and there was
nothing he could do to save her life. The state challenged
appellant's assertion that the accident scene was dark,
emphasizing that an intersection and a well-lit gas station
were nearby. The state also emphasized his prior criminal
record, noting three OVI convictions, multiple drug
convictions, and twenty-seven prior arrests.
In pronouncing sentence, the trial court found that both the
seriousness of appellant's actions and the likelihood
that he would commit future crimes weighed in favor of
imposing a maximum prison term of eight years for failure to
stop after an accident. The trial court also imposed a
concurrent six-month term on the vehicular homicide count.
Appellant appeals raising three assignments of error:
"[1.] Trial counsel's deficient performance during
the proceedings in the lower court deprived the
defendant-appellant of the effective assistance of counsel in