Robert Toy, Toy Law Office, Athens, Ohio, for Appellant.
A. Eliason, Athens City Law Director, and Tracy W. Meek,
Assistant Athens City Prosecutor, Athens, Ohio, for Appellee.
DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY
Matthew W. McFarland, Judge.
Gilbert Phillips appeals the judgment entry of conviction
entered October 20, 2017 in the Athens Municipal Court.
Appellant challenges his conviction of disorderly conduct,
RC. 2917.11, on two bases: (1) that the State failed to bring
him to trial within the limitations for statutory speedy
trial; and (2) that his conviction was not
supported by the weight of the evidence. Having reviewed the
record, we find Appellant's first assignment of error is
with merit. Thus, his second assignment of error has been
rendered moot. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the
trial court and vacate Appellant's conviction.
On July 20, 2017, Appellant was charged with obstructing
official business, a misdemeanor. The charge stemmed from a
disagreement between Appellant and a representative of
Columbia Gas who attempted to perform work at a job site on
Big Baily Road in Athens County. The parties have provided
differing versions of the events which transpired on that
According to the State, Columbia Gas employees were planning
to perform work at property owned by Ed Rence. Mr. Rence
apparently shared a driveway with Appellant. Columbia Gas
employee Ron Smith later testified at Appellant's bench
trial that the Columbia Gas crew brought five vehicles and
proceeded onto the shared driveway. Suddenly, Appellant drove
his car at a high rate of speed toward the Columbia Gas
vehicles. Appellant jumped out of his car, screaming
obscenities, beating on his bare chest and kicking off his
sandals. In a threatening manner, Appellant ordered the crew
to leave and Rob Smith felt physically threatened. Mr. Smith
called 911 and asked for assistance regarding "an irate
landowner." After two Athens county deputies responded
to the scene, Deputy John Morris made contact with Appellant
who continued to "rant and rave." Appellant was
ultimately cited for obstructing official business.
According to Appellant, however, the Columbia Gas convoy of
vehicles suddenly drove onto his private property without
notifying him. The Columbia Gas vehicles not only blocked the
driveway but also ended up on Appellant's private lawn.
Appellant immediately drove down the driveway, confronted the
crew, and ordered them off his property. Appellant claims he
reached an agreement with the crew, who left in five to ten
minutes. However, an Athens County Sheriffs deputy arrived
approximately ten minutes after the crew left and Appellant
was arrested on a charge of obstruction.
Appellant spent one night in jail due to the obstruction
charge. He entered a plea of not guilty at arraignment. The
obstruction charge was eventually dismissed on September 26,
On September 27, 2017, Deputy Morris cited Appellant for a
violation of disorderly conduct, R.C. 2917.11(A)(1). On
September 27, 2017, counsel for Appellant filed a written
denial of the charge, along with a motion to dismiss. On
October 5, 2017, the State filed a response to the motion to
dismiss. On October 12, 2017, the matter came on for a bench
Prior to receiving testimony, the trial court heard the
arguments of the parties with regard to the motion to
dismiss. After doing so, the trial court ruled from the bench
that "at this point in time, I'm going to rely on
the fact that this was filed within the statute of
limitations." On October 20, 2017, the court filed a
judgment entry finding Appellant guilty. Appellant was fined
in the amount of $50.00 and court costs.
Appellant timely appealed. He also filed a motion for
suspension of execution of sentence pending
APPELLANT'S RIGHT TO A SPEEDY TRIAL HAD BEEN VIOLATED
WHEN HE WAS NOT BROUGHT TO TRIAL WITHIN 30 DAYS AFTER HIS
ARREST ON A MINOR MISDEMEANOR."
Appellate review of a trial court's decision on a motion
to dismiss for a speedy trial violation involves a mixed
question of law and fact. State v. Sheline, 4th
Dist. Ross No. 15CA3511, 2016-Ohio-4794, ¶ 6; State
v. Brown, 2016-Ohio- 1453, 63 N.E.3d 509 (4th Dist), at
¶ 5. State v. James, 4th Dist. Ross No.
13CA3393, 2014-Ohio-1702, at ¶ 23; State v.
Smith, 4th Dist. Ross No. 10CA3148, 2011-Ohio-602, at
¶ 18. Generally, an appellate court will defer to a
trial court's factual findings if competent and credible
evidence supports those findings. However, an appellate court
will review de novo a trial court's application of the
law to those facts. State v. Carr, 4th Dist. Ross
No. 12CA3358, 2013-Ohio-5312, at ¶ 12; State v.
Fisher, 4th Dist. Ross No. 11CA3292, 2012- Ohio-6144, at
¶ 8. We are reminded that when reviewing the legal
issues presented in a speedy trial claim, we must strictly
construe the relevant statutes against the State. Id.;
State v. Skinner, 4th Dist. Ross No. 06CA2931,
2007-Ohio-6320, ¶ 9; Brecksville v. Cook, 75
Ohio St.3d 53, 57, 1996-Ohio-171, 661 N.E.2d 706; State
v. Miller, 113 Ohio App.3d 606, 608, 681 N.E.2d 90 (11th
Dist.1996); State v. Cloud, 122 Ohio App.3d 626, 702
N.E.2d 500 (2nd Dist.1997).
Appellant's motion to dismiss came on for hearing just
prior to the beginning of his bench trial. The trial court
did not journalize an entry denying Appellant's motion to
dismiss. It is axiomatic that a court speaks through its
journal. State v. Sydenstricker, 4th Dist. Ross No.
96CA15, 1996 WL 730501, (Dec. 11, 1996), at *2; State ex
rel. Worcester v. Donnellon, 49 Ohio St.3d 117, 118, 551
N.E.2d 183 (1990). A court does not speak by oral
pronouncement. In re Adoption of Gibson, 23 Ohio
St.3d 170, 173, 492 N.E.2d 146 (1986), fn. 3; Schenley v.
Kauth, 160 Ohio St. 109, 113, 113 N.E.2d 625 (1953),
paragraph one of the syllabus. However, there is a
presumption that a motion is denied when the record is
silent. See Newman v. Al Castrucci Ford Sales, Inc.,
54 Ohio App.3d 166, 169 (1988). Here, the trial court's
pronouncement that "[A]t this point in time, I'm
going to rely on the fact that this was filed within the
statute of limitations, " and proceeding with the bench
trial are actions consistent with the motion being denied.
Accordingly, we find that the trial court denied
Appellant's motion to dismiss.
Appellant contends the trial court erred in denying his
motion to dismiss for a statutory speedy-trial violation. The
Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article
I, Section 10 of the Ohio Constitution guarantee a criminal
defendant the right to a speedy trial, and this guarantee is
implemented in R.C. 2945.71, which provides specific
statutory time limits within which a person must be brought
to trial. See Sheline, supra, at 7; State v.
Hucks, 4th Dist. Ross No. 15CA3488, 2016-Ohio-323,
¶ 19; State v. Taylor, ...