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Chojnacki v. Mohr

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Lorain

March 30, 2018

GARY MOHR, et al. Appellees


          BARRY W. WILFORD, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

          MICHAEL DEWINE, Attorney General, and B. ALEXANDER KENNEDY, Assistant Attorney General, for Appellee.


          DONNA J. CARR, Judge.

         {¶1} Appellant, Steven Chojnacki, appeals the judgment of the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas. This Court reverses and remands.


         {¶2} In 1994, Chojnacki was convicted of seven counts of rape. In regard to the first count where Chojnacki was convicted of rape of a minor under the age of 13 with a finding that the offense was committed with force, the trial court imposed a sentence of life imprisonment. The trial court imposed a sentence of not less than 10 but not more than 25 years imprisonment on each of the remaining six counts. The trial court ordered that all of the sentences be served consecutively to each other. Chojnacki received 83 days of jail-time credit.

         {¶3} On February 25, 2014, the Ohio Parole Board released its decision denying parole to Chojnacki and continuing further consideration of the matter until 2024. Chojnacki filed a request for reconsideration that was promptly denied.

         {¶4} Subsequently, on March 30, 2015, Chojnacki filed a lawsuit challenging the determination of his parole eligibility date. The named defendants in the lawsuit were the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections ("ODRC"), as well as Gary Mohr, in his capacity as Director of the ODRC, Cynthia Mausser, in her capacity as Chief of the Ohio Adult Parole Authority, and Andre Imbrogno, in his capacity as Chairman of the Ohio Parole Board. Chojnacki requested a number of declarations relating to his parole eligibility status in addition to other relief. The defendants filed a timely answer.

         {¶5} With leave of court, Chojnacki filed an amended complaint for declaratory judgment and further relief on August 17, 2015. Chojnacki asked the trial court to make the following declarations in the amended complaint:

Declare that under prevailing Ohio law (R.C. 2929.41(E)(2) & R.C. 2967.13(F)), the aggregate indefinite prison term imposed upon [Chojnacki] by the Medina County Common Pleas Court in case no. CR-299909 upon which [Chojnacki] entered ODRC custody was and is: 15 years-to-life.

Declare that [Chojnacki's] earliest eligibility for parole under prevailing Ohio law was in December, 2003.

Declare pursuant to State ex. rel. Keith v. Ohio Adult Parole Auth[.], 141 Ohio St.3d 375, 2014-Ohio-4270, that the parole hearing decision resulting from the February 11, 2014 parole hearing was based upon a "substantive error" and "erroneous information" concerning [Chojnacki's] minimum term of imprisonment and as a consequence [Chojnacki's] earliest parole eligibility[.]

         {¶6} Chojnacki further asked the trial court to order the defendants to schedule a date for a new parole hearing and to order the ODRC to conform all of its computations of inmates' terms of imprisonment to the limitations imposed by former R.C. 2929.41(E) on the aggregation of multiple consecutive terms of imprisonment. Chojnacki also requested that the trial court assess court costs to the defendants and award him any other relief to which he is entitled under the law. The defendants filed an answer to the amended complaint and asserted that there was no miscalculation in determining when Chojnacki was first eligible for parole. The defendants further asserted that the Ohio Parole Board had properly scheduled Chojnacki's first parole eligibility hearing for November 2013 and that the hearing had been rescheduled to February 2014 at Chojnacki's request.

         {¶7} The parties proceeded with discovery. On April 25, 2016, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. Chojnacki filed a memorandum in opposition to the motion for summary judgment as well as a cross-motion for summary judgment against the defendants. The parties attached numerous exhibits to their respective summary judgment filings. Based on its determination that the defendants were correct in their calculation of Chojnacki's parole eligibility date, the trial court concluded that there was no justiciable controversy before the court. In light of this determination, the trial court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment and denied Chojnacki's motion for summary judgment.

         {¶8} On appeal, Chojnacki raises ...

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