Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Fayette
CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM FAYETTE COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS
Case No. CRI 20170148
C. Weade, Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney, for
H. Eckstein, for defendant-appellant.
1} Defendant-appellant, Donnie Wright, appeals his
conviction and sentence in the Fayette County Court of Common
Pleas for unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.
2} In early December 2016, appellant began dating a
woman ("Mother"). Within days, appellant moved into
Mother's house. Mother has a daughter ("the
victim") who also resided with her. Later that month,
appellant began having sexual intercourse with the victim.
The victim was 14 years old; appellant turned 49 years old on
December 30, 2016. Between December 2016 and late February
2017, as appellant's relationship with Mother continued,
appellant engaged in sexual intercourse with the victim
multiple times a day in his car or in Mother's home. The
sexual abuse ended on March 1, 2017, after the victim
confessed to a family friend ("Family Friend") who
informed Mother. The police were notified on March 3, 2017;
four days later, Detective Thomas Queen of the Washington
Court House Police Department began an investigation. During
the investigation, the detective interviewed the victim. He
also interviewed Mike Ratliff, a former lifelong friend of
appellant. In April 2017, the victim had a forensic interview
at the Child Protection Center of Ross County which included
a medical examination by Dr. Amy Luckeydoo, a pediatrician.
3} Appellant was indicted in May 2017 on five counts
of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. Each count included
the specification that appellant was ten or more years older
than the victim. A jury trial was held on October 14,
2017. The victim, Dr. Luckeydoo, Detective
Queen, Family Friend, and Ratliff testified on behalf of the
state Appellant did not testify or present witnesses on his
4} Dr. Luckeydoo testified that during the medical
examination, the victim stated that she and appellant had
vaginal intercourse on several occasions and that it ended in
March 2017. The victim further told the physician that
appellant had bought her a ring which she refused to wear,
and that he had told her she should not tell anybody about
5} Family Friend became suspicious of a sexual
relationship between appellant and the victim when she
observed the two holding hands for long periods of time and
kissing on the lips in a nonplatonic manner on several
occasions. Family Friend testified that when she accompanied
the victim to a hospital one day, she observed the victim
receiving several text messages from appellant. In
particular, one of the text messages stated, "What if
you are pregnant, it would be mine?" On
cross-examination, Family Friend admitted she did not
personally see appellant's name or phone number on those
text messages. Rather, the victim told her that the text
messages were from appellant.
6} Family Friend further testified that on one
occasion, appellant and the victim stayed at home while
Family Friend and Mother went somewhere. When Family Friend
came back to the house, the victim, who was "a little
bit worked up or excited, " told her that appellant
"had just fucked her on a * * * table." Family
Friend eventually confronted the victim and the latter
admitted she was having a sexual relationship with appellant.
Family Friend told Mother. The two women confronted appellant
who packed his belongings and left Mother's home.
7} Ratliff testified that while he and appellant
were having a beer one day, appellant told him that he and
the victim "were having sex." Ratliff stated that
appellant told him about the sexual relationship on about
four separate occasions. Ratliff did not tell anyone until
August 2017 when Detective Queen came to his home to
interview him. Ratliff explained he was no longer talking to
appellant as the two recently had a falling out on an
8} Detective Queen provided appellant's date of
birth and testified that appellant was 49 years old. The
detective testified he interviewed Ratliff on August 24,
2017. By then, Ratliff and appellant were no longer speaking
to one another. During her interview with the detective, the
victim admitted that she and appellant had engaged in sexual
intercourse over several months, three to four times a day.
The victim, however, denied having sex on the kitchen table
because "it would break if she did." The detective
testified he retrieved the victim's cellphone. However,
only a handful of text messages was recovered as the victim
had deleted her text and Facebook messages. The detective
further testified that he did not request a rape kit and that
there was no DNA or other forensic evidence to be collected
due to the passage of time and the fact appellant was living
in Mother's home and dating Mother at the same time he
was having sexual intercourse with the victim.
9} The victim testified that she and appellant
started to have sexual intercourse the same month appellant
began dating Mother and moved into Mother's home. The
victim was 14 years old and was never married to appellant.
Although the victim indicated she wanted the relationship,
appellant was the one who sought out the relationship.
Appellant further asked her if she "could have his
kids." While appellant never bought her a ring or
anything else, he promised her he would buy her a ring,
"a house and just basically everything."
10} The victim testified she and appellant had
intercourse several times a day, in his car or in
Mother's home. The victim admitted having sex on the
kitchen table. They stopped having sex on February 20, 2017,
because she was constipated and menstruating. The victim
testified the relationship ended when she told Family Friend
about it and Family Friend told Mother.
11} The victim admitted she lied to several persons
regarding her relationship with appellant. Specifically, she
lied to Mother when she told her she was not in a
relationship with appellant. She lied to Detective Queen when
she denied having sex with appellant on the kitchen table.
The victim explained she lied to the detective because she
was scared and having sex on a kitchen table is
"disgusting." The victim lied to Dr. Luckeydoo when
she told her appellant had given her a ring. The victim could
not explain why she had lied "about something so
small" when she had admitted to Dr. Luckeydoo that she
was in a sexual relationship with appellant.
12} After the state rested its case-in-chief, Counts
1 and 5, which respectively covered the time period of
November 2016 and March 2017, were dismissed at the
state's request. Appellant moved for a Crim.R. 29(A)
acquittal, which was overruled by the trial court. After the
jury retired to deliberate, appellant advised the trial court
that as the jury was exiting the courtroom and passing by the
victim, he heard the victim utter the word
"guilty." Appellant moved for a mistrial, arguing
that the victim's improper communication with the jury
raised concerns about the jury's ability to be unbiased.
13} The trial court first asked the prosecutor and
defense counsel whether they had heard anything. They had
not. At the trial court's directive, the prosecutor
questioned the victim's advocate who was seated near the
victim when the jury retired to deliberate. The victim's
advocate testified she did not hear either the victim or
Mother utter the word "guilty" as the jury retired.
The trial court next sent a written question to the jurors,
asking them, "Did any juror hear any remark from anyone
in the audience as you were exiting the courtroom?" The
jury foreperson reported to the trial court that all jurors
answered "No." The trial court then allowed
appellant to proffer "what he believes took place,
" namely, that as the jury walked by the victim, he
heard either the victim or Mother say "guilty"
14} After the jury reached a verdict but before the
verdict was read, the trial court personally asked the jurors
whether "any of the 12 of you that deliberated this
case, as you were exiting the jury box and on your way into
the jury room[, ] hear any remark or comment from anyone in
the audience?" Once again, the jurors replied
"No." Consequently, the trial court found that
"the record reflects that unanimously no one heard any
remark from anyone in the audience ...