from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas C.P.C. No.
O'Brien, Prosecuting Attorney, and Barbara A. Farnbacher,
Barbara A. Farnbacher.
R. Venters, Public Defender, and John W. Keeling, for
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
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 ...