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State v. Vargo

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Belmont

June 22, 2018

STATE OF OHIO BARNESVILLE MAYOR'S COURT, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
EDWARD L. VARGO, Defendant-Appellant.

          Criminal Appeal from the Belmont County Court, Western Division, of Belmont County, Ohio Case No. 17 TR D 00016.

          Atty. Daniel P. Fry, Belmont County Prosecutor and Atty. Marlin J. Harper, for Appellee

          Edward L. Vargo, Pro se Appellant

          BEFORE: Cheryl L. Waite, Gene Donofrio, Carol Ann Robb, Judges.

          OPINION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

          WAITE, J.

         {¶1} Appellant, Edward L. Vargo, pro se, appeals his conviction following a bench trial in the Western Division of Belmont County Court. Appellant was found guilty of violating Ordinance 331.04, captioned "Overtaking and Passing On Right," a minor misdemeanor. Following his conviction, the trial court imposed a fine in the amount of $150.00. Appellant contends that his conviction is against the manifest weight of the evidence, and that the trial court erred when it considered a grainy surveillance video that was neither turned over to Appellant nor played at the trial. For the following reasons, Appellant's conviction is affirmed.

         Facts

         {¶2} On December 15, 2016 at approximately 7:00 p.m., Appellant and his wife, Merry Vargo, were traveling southbound on North Chestnut Street in St. Clairsville in a Jeep Wrangler. The Vargos' automobile was directly behind a Pontiac G6 driven by Jessica Shrewsbury. North Chestnut Street is a two-lane highway, with parallel parking spaces on both sides of the street. According to Appellant's testimony, he was travelling at a speed of fifteen to twenty miles per hour.

         {¶3} When Shrewsbury slowed her vehicle for the traffic light at the intersection of Main Street, she activated her left turn signal. Appellant began to pass her vehicle on the right while still in the single lane of traffic. Merry testified that she saw Shrewsbury's left turn signal flash at least twice.

         {¶4} At some point, Shrewsbury decided to turn right instead of left onto North Main Street. Appellant testified that when he realized Shrewsbury was turning right he blew the horn and hit his brake, expecting that Shrewsbury would realize that he was to her right and stop her car. However, Shrewsbury continued her right turn onto North Main Street, colliding with the driver's side of the Jeep and tearing off the left front flare and front bumper. Appellant testified that he turned into the westbound lane on Main Street in an effort to avoid further damage to his Jeep.

         {¶5} Shrewsbury continued on North Main Street with Appellant in pursuit. She stopped at the next intersection.

         {¶6} When Shrewsbury exited the car, she told Appellant that she did nothing wrong. Shrewsbury's passenger, who claimed to be her brother, told Appellant that the accident was Shrewsbury's fault and asked Appellant not to involve the police because they could "work [it] out." (Trial Tr., p. 18.) Neither Appellant nor his wife had a mobile phone, but several businesses were within walking distance.

         {¶7} Shrewsbury's passenger told Appellant that Shrewsbury had insurance, but no insurance card. He explained that Shrewsbury's husband had "totaled" his truck the previous week and that he probably had the insurance card. They exchanged information, and Shrewsbury's passenger promised that Shrewsbury would contact Appellant the following day to make arrangements to repair the Jeep.

         {¶8} Appellant filed an accident report on December 16, 2016. Following a police investigation of the crash, Appellant was cited for illegally passing Shrewsbury on the right.

         {¶9} The matter proceeded to trial on January 19, 2016. Prior to trial, Appellant explained to the trial court that he sought legal representation but was told that his case was "too trivial" and that he would represent himself. (Trial Tr., p. 20.) The trial court heard testimony from Barnesville Police Department Patrolman Cody ...


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