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State v. Dendinger

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Third District, Seneca

June 3, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
RHONDA M. DENDINGER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

          Appeal from Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court Trial Court No. CRB 1800979

          Edwin M. Bibler for Appellant

          Richard H. Palau for Appellee

          OPINION

          WILLAMOWSKI, J.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant Rhonda M. Dendinger ("Dendinger") appeals the judgment of the Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court, alleging that her conviction was not supported by sufficient evidence and was against the manifest weight of the evidence. Further, Dendinger claims that trial judge was biased against her attorney. For the reasons set forth below, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

         Facts and Procedural History

         {¶2} Nathan Miller ("Miller") is married to Dendinger's daughter, Kelsey Dendinger ("Kelsey"). Tr. 11, 24. At the time of the incident forming the basis of this case, Miller and Kelsey were in the midst of a divorce proceeding, but both of them still lived in their marital residence. Tr. 12-13, 25. During this time, Kelsey would sleep in a bedroom while Miller would sleep on the couch. Tr. 13. Kelsey had been locking her bedroom door, alleging that Miller had been recording her while she slept. Tr. 13. Miller stated, at trial, that he needed access to the bedroom to shower, obtain his clothes, and care for his infant son. Tr. 14, 16-17. At some point, Kelsey left the key to the bedroom in the door. Tr. 14. Miller took the key and kept it, "so that nobody could be locked out of the bedroom." Tr. 9.

         {¶3} On July 31, 2018, Kelsey called Dendinger and asked her to come to the house, saying, at trial, that she wanted her mother's "support." Tr. 25-26. Dendinger then drove to her daughter's house. Tr. 31. When she arrived, Dendinger went inside the house, spoke to her daughter about the key, and then approached Miller. Tr. 31. Dendinger said, "Nate, just give her back the key." Tr. 32. After Miller denied having the key, Dendinger testified that she "reached to the outer edge of the lower pocket [of Miller's shorts] * * * to see if the key was in there." Tr. 32. Miller told Dendinger not to touch him. Tr. 10, 33. At this point, Miller and Kelsey began to have an argument, and Dendinger left the room to get Miller and Kelsey's infant son. Tr. 33.

         {¶4} Miller testified that Dendinger returned and "started * * * patting [his] pockets, trying to get in [his] pockets again." Tr. 11. Miller then went outside and called the police. Tr. 11. Deputy Troy Callahan ("Deputy Callahan") responded to this call. Tr. 19. After speaking with Miller, Kelsey, and Dendinger, he issued a citation to Dendinger for disorderly conduct in violation of R.C. 2917.11(A)(5). Doc. 1. Tr. 19. This offense is a minor misdemeanor. Doc. 1.

         {¶5} A bench trial was held on October 29, 2018. Tr. 1. Miller, Kelsey, Dendinger, and Deputy Callahan testified before the trial court. At the close of the State's case-in-chief, the Defense made a Crim.R. 29 motion, alleging that the State did not produce sufficient evidence to support a conviction. Tr. 22. The trial court denied this motion. Tr. 24. During closing arguments, the Defense argued that Dendinger's actions were not physically offensive. Tr. 40-41. In rebuttal, the prosecutor stated, "I'll keep it short Your Honor. Just the fact that the man's house is not his castle, surely his pants are his castle." Tr. 41. The trial court then found Dendinger guilty and ordered her to pay a fine of $100.00 plus court costs. Tr. 43-44.

         {¶6} Appellant filed her notice of appeal on November 26, 2018. Doc. 18. On appeal, appellant raises the following assignments of error:

First Assignment of Error
There was insufficient evidence to convict the defendant-appellant of Disorderly Conduct pursuant to R.C. 2917.11(A)(5), as the State of Ohio failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant-appellant acted recklessly, that her conduct was physically offensive and that she had no lawful reasonable purpose.
Second Assignment of Error
The trial court erred and the defendant-appellant's conviction of disorderly conduct was against the manifest weight of the evidence as the State of Ohio failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant-appellant acted recklessly, that her conduct was physically offensive and that she had no lawful and reasonable purpose.
Third Assignment of Error
The court clearly showed bias toward Defendant-Appellant's attorney by (1) inappropriate comments made during trial and (2) directing the court's closing colloquy directly to the Attorney for the defendant, showing the Defendant-Appellant received an unfair trial.

         First Assignment of Error

         {¶7} Dendinger argues that her conviction for disorderly conduct is not supported by sufficient evidence because (1) her actions did not "recklessly cause inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm to another" and (2) her actions did not "create a condition that is physically offensive to persons or that presents a risk of physical harm." R.C. 2917.11(A)(5).

         Legal Standard

         {¶8} A challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence supporting a conviction "is a question of law and a 'test of adequacy rather than credibility or weight of the evidence.'" State v. Beaver, 3d Dist. Marion No. 9-17-37, 2018-Ohio-2438, ¶ 40, quoting State v. Berry, 3d Dist. Defiance No. 4-12-03, 2013-Ohio-2380, ¶ 19. "The sufficiency-of-the-evidence analysis addresses the question of whether adequate evidence was produced for the case to be considered by the trier of fact and, thus, whether the evidence was 'legally sufficient to support the verdict * * *.'" State v.Luebrecht, 3d Dist. Putnam No. ...


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