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State v. Jeffries

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

January 18, 2018

STATE OF OHIO PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
CEDRIC N. JEFFRIES DEFENDANT-APPELLANT

         Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-16-606245-A

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Eric M. Levy

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga County Prosecutor By: Jeffrey Schnatter Assistant County Prosecutor

          BEFORE: Keough, P.J., Laster Mays, J., and Jones, J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          KATHLEEN ANN KEOUGH, PRESIDING JUDGE

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant, Cedric Jeffries ("Jeffries"), appeals from the trial court's judgment finding him guilty of rape and kidnapping and sentencing him to 15 years to life in prison. For the reasons that follow, we affirm in part; reverse in part; and remand for a hearing regarding the imposition of court costs.

         I. Background

         {¶2} Jeffries was charged in a four-count indictment as follows: Count 1, rape in violation of R.C. 2907.02(A)(1)(b); Count 2, kidnapping in violation of R.C. 2905.01(A)(4) with a sexual motivation specification; Count 3, rape in violation of R.C. 2907.02(A)(2); and Count 4, kidnapping in violation of R.C. 2905.01(A)(4) with a sexual motivation specification. Counts 1 and 2 related to an incident that occurred on December 23, 2011, the victim's twelfth birthday, and Counts 3 and 4 related to an incident that occurred in March 2016, when the victim was 16 years old.[1] Jeffries pleaded not guilty and the case proceeded to a jury trial.

         {¶3} The evidence adduced at trial demonstrated that Jeffries and R.S., the victim's mother, had an on and off relationship for several years. During those years, R.S. had one child with Jeffries and two children with other men, including D.S., the victim in this case. R.S. eventually lost custody of the children, and they went to foster care.

         {¶4} D.S. testified that she lived in three different foster homes before she was six years old, when she went to live with H.G., Jeffries's mother, who had obtained custody of R.S.'s three children. Jeffries also lived in the home. D.S. was not Jeffries's biological child but she testified that she considered him to be her father and called him "Dad."

         {¶5} D.S. testified that about a year after she moved in, Jeffries began touching her inappropriately. She said the first incident she remembered was when Jeffries lay on his back on the couch, placed her on his stomach, placed his hand on her buttocks, and then moved his hand around. Both D.S. and Jeffries were clothed during this incident.

         {¶6} D.S. testified that the inappropriate touching continued as she grew older. She recalled an incident when she was about nine years old when Jeffries came into the living room while she was watching television and forced her to take her clothes off and sit on his lap on the couch. She testified that there were other incidents where Jeffries would force her to take her clothes off and sit on his lap; she said that sometimes he was dressed during these incidents but at other times he would have his pants down. She said that during these incidents, Jeffries would touch her buttocks, breasts, and vagina. D.S. testified that the incidents occurred when H.G. left the house on the weekends or after her brothers were in bed.

         {¶7} D.S. testified that on December 23, 2011, her twelfth birthday, Jeffries instructed her to take her clothes off and lay on the couch. She said that Jeffries, who was undressed, laid on top of her and after touching her vagina, inserted his fingers and then his penis into her vagina. D.S. testified that she did not feel like she could leave or get away from Jeffries during this incident.

         {¶8} D.S. testified that this type of sexual activity continued for "years." She said that she never told anyone about the abuse because she was afraid that no one would believe her, or she would be sent back to foster care.

         {¶9} In March 2016, when she was sixteen years old, D.S. finally told Jacqueline Bell, the principal at her high school, about the abuse because she "was just tired of it." D.S. testified that one or two weeks before she told Ms. Bell, Jeffries came into her bedroom one night as she was sleeping. She said she was sleeping on her stomach, dressed in pajama pants, underwear, and a tee-shirt, when she awoke to Jeffries lying on top of her. D.S. testified that Jeffries pulled her pajama pants and underwear down, and then pulled his own pants off. She said that he then got back on top of her and put his penis in her vagina. She testified that during this incident, she did not feel like she could leave and had no choice but to stay.

         {¶10} After Jeffries left her room, D.S. decided to run away. She packed two bags and left home at approximately 11 p.m. D.S. said she took Jeffries's cell phone with her because he had hidden her phone.

         {¶11} During the hours after D.S. ran away, Jeffries called her over 30 times but D.S. did not answer. He also texted her at approximately 10:30 a.m. the following morning, telling her "police on way" and asking her to "don't tell on me."

         {¶12} After she ran away, D.S. walked to her high school and when it opened at 7 a.m., told Bell about the abuse. Bell called Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services ("CCDCFS"), and CCDCFS social worker Shannon Sneed responded to the school and interviewed D.S. The police were called, and Jeffries was eventually arrested.

         {¶13} At trial, Jeffries denied that he ever sexually abused D.S. He admitted sending a text to her the morning after she ran away, but said that he texted "police on way only because he did not want D.S. to be scared when the police arrived at her school. He also said he intended to text "just talk to me" but the old cell phone he was using somehow changed his text to "don't tell on me."

         {¶14} The jury found Jeffries guilty of all counts. The prosecutor and defense

counsel agreed that for purposes of sentencing, Counts 1 and 2 merged and Counts 3 and 4 merged. The state elected to proceed to sentencing on Counts 2 and 3. The trial court sentenced Jeffries to life in prison on Count 2, with parole eligibility after 15 years, to run concurrent to 10 years incarceration on Count 3. The court also imposed court costs. This appeal followed.

         II. Law and Analysis

         A. Evidence of Victim's Prior Allegations of Nonconsensual Sexual Abuse Precluded From Trial

         {¶15} Prior to trial, the trial court held an in camera hearing pursuant to State v. Boggs, 63 Ohio St.3d 418, 588 N.E.2d 318 (1992), to determine the admissibility at trial of evidence regarding D.S.'s prior allegations of sexual misconduct against a foster brother. At the hearing, D.S. testified that when she was in a foster home at age four or five, one of her foster brothers sexually abused her, including putting his penis in her vagina. She said that the activity was not consensual, and that she honestly disclosed the abuse to a CCDCFS social worker. The trial court then denied Jeffries's request to allow defense counsel to ask questions of D.S. regarding these prior allegations of sexual abuse by the foster brother, concluding that cross-examination on this issue was precluded by Ohio's rape shield statute. In his first assignment of error, Jeffries contends that the trial court erred in denying his request because it violated his Sixth Amendment right to confront the witnesses against him.

         {¶16} R.C. 2907.02(D), Ohio's rape shield statute, states, in relevant part, that:

Evidence of specific instances of the victim's sexual activity, opinion evidence of the victim's sexual activity, and reputation evidence of the victim's sexual activity shall not be admitted under this section unless it involves evidence of the origin of semen, pregnancy, or disease, or the victim's past sexual activity with the offender, and only to the extent that the court finds that the evidence is material to a fact at issue in the case and that its inflammatory or prejudicial nature does not outweigh its probative value.

         {¶17} Jeffries cites to State v. Stoffer, 7th Dist. Columbia No. 09-CO-1, 2011-Ohio-5133, in which the Seventh District found that the rape shield statute address only prior consensual sexual activity of the victim and not prior sexual abuse suffered by the victim. Id. at ¶ 98. Thus, in Stoffer, although it ultimately found the error to be harmless, the Seventh District held that the trial court erred in applying the rape shield statute to preclude the defendant from introducing evidence that the victim had previously been sexually abused by someone other than the defendant. In State v. Sledge, 6th Dist. Lucas No. L-15-1109, 2016-Ohio-4904, the Sixth District, citing Stoffer, found that where alleged prior sexual abuse of the victim does not result from "volitional sexual acts * * * it may not fall within the general prohibition mandated by R.C. 2907.02(D)." Id. at ¶ 19. In reliance on Stoffer and Sledge, Jeffries asserts that the rape shield statute did not preclude his cross-examination of D.S. regarding her prior allegations of sexual abuse against a foster brother. We disagree because the Ohio Supreme Court has made it clear that both prior nonconsensual and consensual sexual activity of the victim are protected by the rape shield statute.

         {¶18} In Boggs, supra, the Ohio Supreme Court considered whether the rape shield statute prohibits a defendant from cross-examining an alleged rape victim about prior false rape allegations. The court held that before cross-examination of a rape victim regarding prior false rape accusations may proceed, "the trial judge shall hold an in camera hearing to ascertain whether such testimony involves sexual activity and thus is inadmissible under R.C. 2907.02(D), ...


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