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State v. Hart

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

July 24, 2018

State of Ohio, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Jonathon B. Hart, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas (C.P.C. No. 17CR-402)

         On brief:

          Ron O'Brien, Prosecuting Attorney, and Michael P. Walton, for appellee.

          The Stavroff Law Firm, and Jeffrey T Stavroff for appellant.

          DECISION

          LUPER SCHUSTER, J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Jonathon B. Hart, appeals from a judgment entry of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas finding him guilty, pursuant to jury verdict, of one count of aggravated burglary, two counts of robbery, one count of theft, one count of receiving stolen property, one count of tampering with evidence, and one count of kidnapping. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 2} By indictment filed January 20, 2017, plaintiff-appellee, State of Ohio, charged Hart with one count of aggravated burglary in violation of R.C. 2911.11, a first-degree felony; one count of robbery in violation of R.C. 2911.02, a second-degree felony; one count of robbery in violation of R.C. 2911.02, a third-degree felony; one count of theft in violation of R.C. 2913.02, a fifth-degree felony; one count of receiving stolen property in violation of R.C. 2913.51, a fifth-degree felony; one count of tampering with evidence in violation of R.C. 2921.12, a third-degree felony; and one count of kidnapping in violation of R.C. 2905.01, a first-degree felony. The charges related to a home invasion that occurred in the Short North neighborhood of Columbus. The state had previously indicted Damien C. Summers as a codefendant. Hart entered a plea of not guilty.

         {¶ 3} On the same day that the state filed the indictment against Hart, Summers entered into a plea agreement with the state wherein he agreed to enter a guilty plea to one count of aggravated burglary and one count of tampering with evidence in exchange for a nolle prosequi on the other charges. The trial court sentenced Summers to a four-year term of imprisonment and ordered Summers to testify truthfully against any indicted codefendant, journalizing his convictions and sentence in a January 25, 2017 judgment entry. State v. Summers, Franklin C.P. No. 16CR-2295 (Jan. 25, 2017).

         {¶ 4} At Hart's jury trial commencing July 18, 2017, David Pando testified that he was alone in his apartment at 53½ Price Avenue during the early morning hours of March 27, 2016 when he heard knocking and hollering at his door. Pando initially ignored the knocking, assuming the noise was coming from patrons from nearby bars, and fell asleep. However, Pando said he woke abruptly to find two men whom he had never seen before standing in his living room. One of the men held Pando down and put a blanket on him, placing an object against Pando's body and threatening to hurt him if Pando resisted. The man restraining Pando yelled "I'm going to blow your brains out if you move." (July 18, 2017 Tr. Vol. I at 27.) While the one man restrained Pando, the other man proceeded to steal Pando's property, including two flat screen televisions, a computer monitor, a watch, a wallet with credit cards, and an iPhone.

         {¶ 5} Pando testified the two men wore all-black clothing and said he never saw their faces. Pando said the man holding him down was shorter than the other man, wore leather gloves, and had a southern "twangy" accent. (Tr. Vol. I at 52.) Pando testified he had tried to bite the man's fingers but was unsuccessful because of the gloves.

         {¶ 6} As the men were leaving the apartment, Pando said they grabbed a laptop computer, too. Pando testified he begged the men to leave the laptop and the men complied. The man who had restrained Pando told Pando to remain still. Pando said he arose minutes later, still under the blanket and "shaking like crazy" because he was so terrified. (Tr. Vol. I at 31.) Because the men had taken his phone, Pando had no way to call police. Pando said he looked out his window and saw two men loading equipment into a minivan before driving away. Pando then drove to his girlfriend's house in German Village where he called 911.

         {¶ 7} Kathy Zimmer, a detective with the Columbus Division of Police, testified that during the course of the investigation, Summers appeared on police's radar. Through conversations with Pando, detectives determined that Summers had recently been inside Pando's home as an assistant to a maintenance technician, Jim Abbott, who was doing repairs to Pando's apartment. The assistant had a southern "twang" similar to the person who burglarized and threatened Pando, and the repairs occurred a few days before the home invasion.

         {¶ 8} Abbott testified that he formerly employed both Summers and Hart. Abbott confirmed that Summers had accompanied him to Pando's apartment a few days before the home invasion. Additionally, Abbott ...


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