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State v. Patton

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Highland

February 4, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
CASEY PATTON, Defendant-Appellant.

          Marley C. Nelson, Assistant State Public Defender, Columbus, Ohio, for appellant.

          Anneka P. Collins, Highland County Prosecuting Attorney, and Molly Bolek, Highland County Assistant Prosecutor, Hillsboro, Ohio, for appellee.



         {¶1} Defendant-appellant, Casey W. Patton ("Patton"), appeals the judgment of the Highland County Court of Common Pleas, which convicted him of Grand Theft of a Motor Vehicle and sentenced him to fifteen months of incarceration. On appeal, Patton contends that he was denied a fair trial due to prosecutorial misconduct; that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering him to pay restitution; and that he was denied due process because the conviction was not supported by sufficient evidence. Having reviewed the record, we find that the prosecution's remarks did not prejudicially affect the outcome of Patton's trial. However, we find that the trial court did err in ordering restitution without competent, credible evidence in the record to establish the amount of the restitution to a reasonable degree of certainty.

         {¶2} Therefore, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed in part and reversed in part; and this matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶3} On January 28, 2018, Steven O'Connor ("O'Connor") drove his girlfriend's blue 2014 Chevrolet Sonic ("Chevy Sonic") to Community Markets in Hillsboro, Ohio to pick up some items for dinner. (Tr. at 113). O'Connor parked the car and left it running for his two dogs while he ran into the store. (Id.). At that time, Patton was walking through Community Markets' parking lot. (Tr. at 101). After O'Connor entered the store, Patton entered the Chevy Sonic and drove away. (Id.).

         {¶4} When O'Connor exited the store, he noticed that the Chevy Sonic was gone and promptly called the police. (Tr. at 114). Officer Jeremy Conley ("Officer Conley") of the Hillsboro Police Department responded to the scene and reviewed the surveillance video. (Tr. at 100-101). Officer Conley testified that he called OnStar, a GPS system in the Chevy Sonic, and was able to locate the vehicle. (Tr. at 106-107).

         {¶5} Soon thereafter, Officer William Vandemark ("Officer Vandemark") of the Seaman Police Department received a report that the stolen vehicle was heading south on OH-247 towards Seaman, Ohio. (Tr. at 118-119). Officer Vandemark testified that he was heading north on OH-247 when he observed a blue Chevy Sonic heading southbound. (Tr. at 120). Officer Vandemark chased the Chevy Sonic and was eventually able to cut the vehicle off at an intersection in Seaman, Ohio. (Tr. at 120-121). Officer Vandemark identified Patton as the driver and sole occupant of the stolen vehicle at the time of the stop. (Tr. at 121).

         {¶6} After being advised that a Seaman police officer had stopped the Chevy Sonic, Officer Conley arrived at the scene and made contact with Patton. (Tr. at 107). Officer Conley testified that Patton was wearing the same clothing as the male he observed in the surveillance video. (Tr. at 105, 108). According to Officer Conley, Patton had the Chevy Sonic for approximately four and a half hours before the vehicle was recovered. (Tr. at 108). Officer Conley also testified that he did not look to see if there was any damage done to the vehicle. (Tr. at 110).

         {¶7} Sometime after midnight, Officer Adam Day ("Officer Day") of the Hillsboro Police Department interviewed Patton at the Highland County Justice Center about the incident. (Tr. at 132). According to Officer Day, Patton claimed that he needed a ride; therefore, he took the car to New Vienna, Ohio to speak with his girlfriend and then headed to Seaman, Ohio to see his uncle. (Tr. at 130). Patton cooperated with the investigation and gave a voluntary statement. Patton explained that he "stole" the vehicle and told Officer Day where he had dropped O'Connor's dogs off. (Tr. at 130, 132). Patton also told Officer Day that he was planning to take the vehicle back to the parking lot after he visited his uncle. (Tr. at 131-132).

         {¶8} On January 29, 2018, a police officer called Chelsea Wilson ("Wilson"), O'Connor's girlfriend and the owner of the blue 2014 Chevy Sonic. (Tr. at 136). Based on the information Patton gave to the police, Wilson and O'Connor were able to find their dogs. (Tr. at 136-137). Wilson was also able to pick her vehicle up that day from Seaman, Ohio. (Tr. at 136). Wilson and O'Connor both testified that the rear view mirror had been ripped out and that the items stored in the glove box were missing. (Tr. at 116, 136). O'Connor testified that the mirror was equipped with OnStar emblems, which allow you to make a call in case of an emergency. (Tr. at 117, 128). Further, Wilson and O'Connor both testified that they did not know Patton. (Tr. at 114, 135).

         {¶9} On March 6, 2018, the Highland County Grant Jury indicted Patton on one count of Grand Theft of a Motor Vehicle, a fourth degree felony, in violation of R.C. 2913.02(A)(2). (OP 1). A jury trial was conducted on April 23, 2018. Before closing arguments, the jury was instructed on both Grand Theft of a Motor Vehicle and the lesser included offense of Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle. (Tr. at 160-168). After deliberating, the jury found Patton guilty of Grand Theft of a Motor Vehicle. (Tr. at 190). The trial court sentenced Patton to fifteen months of imprisonment, to be served consecutively to his sentence for violating his post-release control in a previous case. (Tr. at 194). In addition, the trial court ordered Patton to pay $158.00 in restitution to the victim. (Tr. at 195).

         II. Assignments of Error

         {¶10} On appeal, Patton assigns the following assignments of error for our review:

Assignment of Error I:
Prosecutorial misconduct denied Mr. Patton a fair trial and due process of law. Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution; Article I, Sections 6 and 10, Ohio Constitution. (T.p. 177).
Assignment of Error II:
The trial court abused its discretion when it ordered Mr. Patton to pay restitution. R.C. 2929.18 (T.p. ...

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