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State v. Henry

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

March 27, 2018

State of Ohio, Plaintiff-Appellee,
William Henry, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas C.P.C. No. 16CR-1572

         On brief:

          Ron O'Brien, Prosecuting Attorney, and Barbara A. Farnbacher, for appellee.


          Barbara A. Farnbacher.

         On brief:

          Yeura R. Venters, Public Defender, and John W. Keeling, for appellant.


          John W. Keeling.


          BROWN, P.J.

         {¶ 1} This is an appeal by defendant-appellant, William Henry, from a judgment of conviction and sentence entered by the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas following a jury trial in which he was found guilty of assault and obstructing official business.

         {¶ 2} On March 21, 2016, appellant was indicted on one count of assault, in violation of R.C. 2903.13, and one count of obstructing official business, in violation of R.C. 2921.31. The matter came for trial before a jury beginning October 4, 2016.

         {¶ 3} The first witness for plaintiff-appellee, State of Ohio, was Marla Broadwater, a clerk at a Bureau of Motor Vehicles ("BMV") office, the Grove Licensing Agency, located at 1583 Alum Creek Drive. On February 12, 2016, appellant entered the BMV office on Alum Creek Drive and requested a replacement driver's license. Broadwater assisted appellant that day, and appellant became "agitated" filling out a form because of an address discrepancy. (Tr. Vol. I at 38.) Appellant eventually "corrected" the information and Broadwater was able to process the form. (Tr. Vol. I at 40.)

         {¶ 4} Broadwater then instructed appellant to proceed "to the photo booth" for an identification photograph. (Tr. Vol. I at 40.) Appellant was wearing a knit hat, and Broadwater said to him: "[S]ir, you're not going to be able to wear your head covering or your hat." (Tr. Vol. I at 41.) Broadwater testified that "once we got down there, he was saying that he wasn't going to remove * * * what he had on." (Tr. Vol. I at 44.)

         {¶ 5} Other BMV managers were present, and they informed appellant head coverings were not allowed in photographs unless "for a religious purpose." (Tr. Vol. I at 44.) Appellant responded "it was for a religious purpose." (Tr. Vol. I at 44.) Broadwater inquired about the religious purpose, and appellant responded: "Orthodox Taekwondo." (Tr. Vol. I at 44.) Broadwater stated she had not "heard of that particular religion, " and informed appellant he would not be able to have his picture taken. (Tr. Vol. I at 45.)

         {¶ 6} BMV managers began researching whether this was "an acceptable type of headgear for that particular religion." (Tr. Vol. I at 45.) Broadwater returned to her work station while other supervisors discussed the matter with appellant. While waiting on another customer, Broadwater heard a "commotion going down, * * * chairs moving." (Tr. Vol. I at 46.) Broadwater walked toward the noise and observed appellant and an officer "down there on the floor." (Tr. Vol. I at 46.) She then observed another individual who "came out from the testing center and was assisting with what was going on down there." (Tr. Vol. I at 47.) The officer was eventually able to restrain appellant.

         {¶ 7} Lisa Littler is a field representative with the Ohio Department of Public Safety; her duties include monitoring paperwork of deputy registrars at BMV locations. On February 12, 2016, Littler was performing duties at a work station at the Alum Creek BMV facility when Tara Grove, a BMV manager, asked her to come to the front office area and assist with a customer who was wearing a head covering.

         {¶ 8} According to Littler, the state has a policy prohibiting individuals from being photographed with a head covering unless required for religious purposes; the policy is designed to deter "identity theft." (Tr. Vol. I at 70.) Littler explained that "if we can't find that religion or we don't recognize it, we * * * ask you to get a letter from your church, your clergy, and bring that to us so that we can have that on file so that you can wear that hat or scarf." (Tr. Vol. I at 69.)

         {¶ 9} On the date of the events at issue, BMV employees inquired about appellant's religion, and appellant "kept saying it was Raffian Condo or something." (Tr. Vol. I at 88.) Appellant "couldn't spell it, " and a Google search did not indicate "a religion that Ohio recognized." (Tr. Vol. I at 68.) After further research, BMV personnel "told him that all we saw was the Rastafarian hat * * * and it wasn't recognized in the State of Ohio as a religion here and that he couldn't wear it." (Tr. Vol. I at 77.) Littler explained to appellant he could obtain a "letter and come back, or we could issue [the license] today without the hat on, and then if he got the letter, he could also come back to have it corrected." (Tr. Vol. I at 70.) Appellant "was yelling, " and told Littler "he was not leaving without it." (Tr. Vol. I at 70.) Appellant had his arm extended and was pointing his finger "about six to eight inches" from Littler's face. (Tr. Vol. I at 82.)

         {¶ 10} Glenn Rondo, a BMV investigator, came to the front area and assisted Littler in explaining the policy to appellant. An officer also approached and stood near Littler behind the counter. Littler testified that appellant "told them that he wasn't talking to anybody but me, and he continued to point at me to say that he was talking to me." (Tr. Vol. I at 71.)

         {¶ 11} Appellant "was getting so loud that the officer kept saying, 'Sir, calm down, please * * * you're scaring the other customers.' And [appellant] wouldn't acknowledge him." (Tr. Vol. I at 71.) Littler testified that appellant "just kept talking to me about how I was going to issue the I.D." (Tr. Vol. I at 71.) The officer "kept saying, 'Sir, ' probably three, four times, maybe five times." (Tr. Vol. I at 71.)

         {¶ 12} The officer finally laid his hand "very lightly" on appellant's shoulder "to say, 'Sir, ' * * * and when he did that, [appellant] jerked away and said, 'Step back and give me three feet of space. Get out of my space.' " (Tr. Vol. I at 71.) The officer said " 'I'm not in your space. I just need you to calm down. You're scaring our other customers. * * * I'm going to have to ask you to leave.' " (Tr. Vol. I at 72.) Appellant "continued to yell and told the officer that he was talking to me [Littler], not him. And the officer then said, 'Sir, I'm going have to place you under arrest.' " (Tr. Vol. I at 72.) The officer "reached for the handcuffs, " and as he attempted to place the handcuffs on appellant's wrist, the two men "were on the floor." (Tr. Vol. I at 83-84.)

         {¶ 13} At that point, BMV "employees up front were all pushing the panic buttons ** * for assistance." (Tr. Vol. I at 72.) Another individual in the building "helped pull [appellant] off * * * the trooper, and then once they got [appellant] to his feet and got the handcuffs on him, the officer proceeded to take him out the doors." (Tr. Vol. I at 84.) Littler testified that "they no more than got through the first set of doors, and [appellant] threw [himself] backwards on to the officer, and they landed up against the wall in the little walkway of the two doors." (Tr. Vol. I at 84.)

         {¶ 14} On February 12, 2016, Rondo, who has an office at the Alum Creek Drive facility, was asked to assist at the front desk with a customer who had a disagreement with a clerk regarding a head covering. Rondo testified that he "came out to try to help the clerk explain to the customer what we were doing and what was going on." (Tr. Vol. I at 101.) Rondo described appellant as "agitated." (Tr. Vol. I at 102.) Appellant's "voice was starting to rise. You could tell he was getting upset as time went on." (Tr. Vol. I at 102.) According to Rondo, "we were trying to explain to the customer that unless you have some sort of a religious exception, we cannot allow you to take a photograph with any kind of head covering. So we're just trying to find out what religion he was involved in and if it was an approved religion." (Tr. Vol. I at 100.)

         {¶ 15} Rondo further testified: "[T]he deputy came out, and * * * the customer was getting really agitated and starting to get really, really loud. At some point, the deputy came around the counter and explained to the customer that he had to leave." (Tr. Vol. I at 102.) The officer placed his hand on appellant's shoulder, and appellant "knocked it off ** * and then they just started wrestling." (Tr. Vol. I at 103.) The two individuals "started tussling and they ended up on the floor." (Tr. Vol. I at 104.)

         {¶ 16} Randy Clucas has been a police officer with the Ohio State Highway Patrol ("OSP") "for just over five years." (Tr. Vol. I at 117.) Officer Clucas, who attended the police academy for training, described his general duties with the OSP as "[b]uilding security for the most part of my shift. We do routine traffic patrols as well. We enforce the Ohio Revised Code. Individuals with warrants, we also take care of them as well." (Tr. Vol. I at 118.)

         {¶ 17} On February 12, 2016, Officer Clucas was on duty as a uniformed police officer at 1583 Alum Creek Drive. On that date, BMV employee Grove informed Officer Clucas that a customer was "upset towards them, " and asked Clucas to "hang around * * * just to see what's going on with this individual." (Tr. Vol. I at 121, 122.) Officer Clucas described the individual as "a male black, had a Rastafarian-style hat on, * * * a knitted hat, a salt and pepper beard." (Tr. Vol. I at 123.) At trial, Officer Clucas identified appellant as the customer at the BMV office that day.

         {¶ 18} Officer Clucas observed appellant "getting * * * more loud and aggressive in his body language, " and "leaning over towards the counter in an aggressive way." (Tr. Vol. I at 122.) Appellant's shoulders were "slanted forward, " and he was pointing his hands at the clerk. (Tr. Vol. I at 122.) Appellant "was yelling about his hat, " stating that it was a "religious hat, and that he should be allowed to wear it in his picture. Then he began saying * * * if I was white, * * * I wouldn't be having this problem right now." (Tr. Vol. I at 124-25.)

         {¶ 19} The officer stepped up to the counter and stood beside the BMV clerk, attempting to draw appellant's attention. Officer Clucas, who testified there were "a lot of people in the BMV at the time, " told appellant that he could not "be yelling like this in front [of] all these people. You're going to get people out here in the crowd upset." (Tr. Vol. I at 126.) Appellant looked over at Officer Clucas but did not respond to him; rather, appellant "just kept on directing his attention toward the BMV investigators." (Tr. Vol. I at 126.) Officer Clucas then "tried to get his attention again * * * saying, 'Hey, if you have a problem, just come talk to me in the back, and we'll just discuss it without any issues whatsoever.' " (Tr. Vol. I at 126.)

         {¶ 20} Officer Clucas then stepped out from behind the counter. The officer "didn't want to embarrass" appellant if he "could have avoided it even though [appellant] was pretty upset with the BMV staff." (Tr. Vol. I at 127.) Officer Clucas attempted to "calm down" appellant by talking with him. (Tr. Vol. I at 127.) When this proved unsuccessful, the officer told appellant: "Either you're going to quit this, or I'm going to have to criminal trespass you." (Tr. Vol. I at 128.) Appellant "began saying, 'This is just like Ferguson. This is just like Ferguson.' " (Tr. Vol. I at 128.) Some of the customers "were saying, 'This is not like Ferguson at all.' So the people were starting to get upset." (Tr. Vol. I at 128.) Officer Clucas "stepped closer to [appellant] and advised him that * * * '[w]e're not going to play this race game. That's not what this is about. You're upset about this. I would like to go talk to you.' " (Tr. Vol. I at 128.)

         {¶ 21} Officer Clucas placed his hand on appellant's elbow and shoulder in an attempt to escort him out the door. At that point, appellant pushed Officer Clucas on the chest and told the officer he was "invading my private space or personal space." (Tr. Vol. I at 130.) The officer then reached for his handcuffs "and said, '[w]ell, you're done. Place ...

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