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State v. Craft

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Vinton

December 28, 2017

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
THOMAS E. CRAFT, Defendant-Appellant.

          Thomas E. Craft, Chillicothe, Ohio, Pro Se Appellant.

          Trecia Kimes-Brown, Vinton County Prosecutor, and William L. Archer, Jr., Assistant Vinton County Prosecutor, McArthur, Ohio, for Appellee.

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

          MATTHEW W. McFARLAND, JUDGE

         {¶1} Thomas E. Craft appeals from a judgment denying his postconviction "Verified Motion to Correct Sentence, " which he filed thirteen years after he was convicted and sentenced for murder and a firearm specification, convictions which were directly appealed to this Court and affirmed in 2005. Appellant raises one assignment of error on appeal, contending that the trial court erred and abused its discretion when it overruled his verified motion without an evidentiary hearing, and by incorrectly ruling that the sentences imposed were not contrary to law and that his claims are barred by res judicata.

         {¶2} Because Appellant's nonconstitutional claims, which involve allegations that the trial court failed to make the required statutory findings before imposing mandatory and consecutive prison terms and allegations that the trial court failed to advise him of his right to appeal his sentence, are barred by res judicata, we reject his assertions. Further, to the extent his verified motion raised constitutional claims, it should have been construed as an untimely petition for post-conviction relief that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to address. As such, Appellant's sole assignment of error is overruled and the judgment of the trial court is affirmed, with the exception of the portion of the trial court's judgment which this Court modifies to reflect dismissal of his constitutional claims.

         FACTS

         {¶3} In April of 2004, Appellant was found guilty by a jury of one count of murder, in violation of R.C. 2903.02(A), along with a firearm specification, in violation of R.C. 2941.145. The trial court sentenced Appellant to an indefinite prison term of fifteen years to life on the murder conviction and a mandatory, stated prison term of three years on the firearm specification, to be served consecutively.

         {¶4} Appellant filed a direct appeal from his convictions claiming they were against the manifest weight of the evidence, and also raising various claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and other constitutional claims. This Court found no merit to any of the assignments of error raised by Appellant and affirmed the judgment of the trial court. State v. Craft, 4th Dist. Vinton No. 04CA589, 2005-Ohio-3944. Then, in 2016, Appellant filed a pro se "Verified Motion to Correct Sentence." His motion contended that his claims were not barred by waiver or res judicata, and that his sentences were contrary to law. He argued that the trial court erred in imposing mandatory and consecutive sentences, failed to advise of him of his right to appeal his sentences, and that these failures deprived him of procedural due process. Appellant's motion requested that the trial court issue an order of resentencing after holding a hearing, "that the Judgment Entry be corrected to reflect a corrected factual basis; that he is actually guilty of a lesser included [offense, ]" and to impose a "non-mandatory and concurrent sentence that; leaves him eligible for Judicial Release and the ability to get Earned Credit * * *." The trial court denied Appellant's motion. It is from the denial of this motion that Appellant now brings his appeal, setting forth a single assignment of error for our review.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR

         "I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED AND ABUSED ITS DISCRETION WHEN IT OVERRULED AND DENIED DEFENDANT'S PROPERLY FILED VERIFIED MOTION TO CORRECT SENTENCE, ALLEGING SENTENCING ERRORS, WITHOUT ANY REAL REVIEW OR HOLDING A HEARING, INCORRECTLY RULING THAT THE SENTENCE IMPOSED WAS NOT CONTRARY TO LAW AND FURTHER INCORPORATING THE STATE'S FLAWED ARGUMENT THAT THESE ERRORS CAN ONLY BE RAISED ON DIRECT APPEAL AND ARE BARRED FROM REVIEW UNDER PRINCIPLES OF RES JUDICATA."

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         {¶5} When reviewing a felony sentence, we apply the standard of review set forth in R.C. 2953.08(G)(2). State v. Marcum, 146 Ohio St.3d 516, 2016-Ohio-1002, 59 N.E.3d 1231, ¶ 22. Under R.C. 2953.08(G)(2), an appellate court may increase, reduce, or modify a sentence or may vacate the sentence and remand the matter to the sentencing court if it clearly and convincingly finds either "[t]hat the record does not support the sentencing court's findings under division (B) or (D) of section 2929.13, division (B)(2)(e) or (C)(4) of section 2929.14, or division (I) of section 2929.20 of the Revised Code, whichever, if any, is relevant" or "[t]hat the sentence is otherwise contrary to law." See State v. Mullins, 4th Dist. Scioto No. 15CA3716, 2016-Ohio-5486, ¶ 25.

         LEGAL ANALYSIS

         {¶6} As set forth above, in his sole assignment of error, Appellant contends that the trial court erred and abused its discretion in denying his "Verified Motion to Correct Sentence" without holding a hearing. Appellant further contends that the trial court erred in determining that his sentences were not contrary to law and that his arguments were barred by res judicata. The State contends that the trial court's decision should ...


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