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State v. Coleman

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery

May 18, 2018

STATE OF OHIO Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
DWAYNE D. COLEMAN Defendant-Appellant

          Criminal Appeal from Municipal Court Trial Court Case No. 17-CRB-3679

          AMY B. MUSTO, Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellee.

          MICHAEL H. HOLZ, Attorney for Defendant-Appellant.

          OPINION

          FROELICH, J.

         {¶ 1} Dwayne D. Coleman appeals from a judgment of the Dayton Municipal Court, which found him guilty of assault, a misdemeanor. The trial court sentenced him to 180 days in jail; he received jail time credit of 12 days, and the balance of the sentence was suspended. The court placed him on non-reporting community control and ordered him not to return to the store where the incident occurred.

         {¶ 2} Coleman appeals, raising one assignment of error, arguing that his conviction was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

         {¶ 3} The incident in question occurred on June 8, 2017; Coleman was charged with assault by complaint on June 9, 2017. The matter was tried to the court on June 20, 2017. The evidence at trial was as follows.

         {¶ 4} Darnell Pate testified that he worked as an armed security officer at an Aldi store on June 8, 2017. He encountered Coleman just as the store was closing for the night. Coleman placed several items on the conveyor belt at a checkout lane, reached into his pockets, and then left the store without taking the items on the belt with him. Pate thought this behavior was suspicious and was concerned about shoplifting.

         {¶ 5} Pate followed Coleman outside the store and asked Coleman to step back inside the store to talk. When Pate "gesture[d] [Coleman] back in the store" and touched "his shoulder area" with an open hand, Coleman "seemed to get agitated" and hit Pate in the right arm with a closed fist. Pate "grabbed" Coleman and walked him into the store. Pate informed Coleman that he (Pate) was going to put Coleman in handcuffs, "just so it [sic] wouldn't be anymore physical altercation, " but when Pate attempted to put Coleman in handcuffs, Coleman hit Pate in the side of the head with a closed fist. Pate testified that he believed he was hit in the head "just twice, " but that he was not sure because the event unfolded very quickly. Pate then succeeded in getting Coleman in handcuffs, and the Dayton Police were called. Coleman was not found to be in possession of any stolen property.

         {¶ 6} A cashier who was working at Aldi on the night of June 8, 2017, testified that, at closing time, she observed the "scuffle" or "power struggle" involving the security guard (who was known to her only as "Darnell") and Coleman through the glass doors at the front of the store. She testified that she saw Coleman hit Pate, but she could not tell where Pate was hit. The cashier believed both men had been "struck" during the altercation, because she "saw lots of hands."

         {¶ 7} Dayton Police Officer Paul Rice responded to the Aldi on the night in question concerning a report that a "shoplifter was in custody." He later learned that nothing was actually taken from the store, but that Coleman had allegedly assaulted a security guard.

         {¶ 8} At the close of the State's case, Coleman moved for a Crim.R. 29 judgment of acquittal, which the court denied. The defense did not present any witnesses.

         {¶ 9} Defense counsel argued in closing argument that Coleman had acted in self-defense, because in the absence of any theft, Pate had no right to touch Coleman, to ask him to return to the store, or to engage in "false imprisonment"; Coleman argued that, like any other private citizen, Pate should have "call[ed] the police and give[n] a report." The State argued that Coleman's response to Pate's initial contact with him was "completely unreasonable" and constituted assault, and that Coleman did not act in self-defense because his use of force was unreasonable.

         {¶ 10} The trial court found that Pate had acted as a private citizen, not as a law enforcement officer, during his interaction with Coleman; therefore, questions of "reasonable suspicion" and "probable cause" did not apply, as there was "no government action." The court further concluded that, although Pate was well-intentioned, he "was wrong to follow [Coleman]. He was wrong to touch him." Nonetheless, the court found that Pate did not do anything to cause Coleman harm and that ...


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