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State v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

June 13, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
ANGELO WILLIAMS Defendant-Appellant.

          Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-17-622706-A

          Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney, and Brad Meyer, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellee.

          Joseph V. Pagano, for appellant.



         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant Angelo Williams ("Williams") appeals his guilty verdict and sentence and asks this court to vacate his convictions. After a review of the record, we affirm.

         {¶ 2} Williams was convicted of trespass in a habitation when a person is present or likely to be present, a fourth-degree felony in violation of R.C. 2911.12(B); menacing by stalking, a fourth-degree felony in violation of R.C. 2903.211(A)(1), with a specification alleging a prior conviction; aggravated menacing, a first-degree misdemeanor in violation of R.C. 2903.21(A); and criminal damaging, a second-degree misdemeanor in violation of R.C. 2909.06(A)(1). Williams was sentenced to 17 months on Counts 1 and 2, six months on Count 3, and 90 days on Count 4, to be served concurrently for a total of 17 months in prison. The trial court also waived court costs and awarded Williams 178 days of jail-time credit.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 3} On the night of September 30, 2017, Joie Graham ("Graham") was spending the night at the home of Yarnell Brown ("Brown"). Along with Graham and Brown, Tony Foreman ("Foreman") and three other people were sleeping at the home. Graham and Foreman slept in the living room, while Brown, Brown's partner, and Graham's two children slept on the second floor. During the night, Graham and Foreman were awakened by what sounded like someone trying to get into the home through the front door. Graham thought it was the wind, and both went back to sleep. A few moments later, Graham was awakened again by a noise coming from upstairs. Shortly thereafter, she saw someone peek around a doorway across the room. Graham walked towards the doorway and discovered Williams in the house. At the time, Graham did not know how Williams entered the house. Williams ordered Graham to "get your a** on the couch." (Tr. 146.) Graham sat on the couch, and Foreman woke up due to the commotion. When Williams realized that Foreman was present, he exited the home out the front door, ran down the street, jumped on his bicycle, and rode away.

         {¶ 4} The next morning, Graham observed damage to the screen door from the upstairs bathroom to the balcony. The screen door was cut, and the interior door was pulled away from the frame near the lock. There was no known damage to the door prior to everyone going to sleep the night before.

         {¶ 5} Prior to this incident, Graham and Williams were in a romantic relationship that began around 2010. At the time of this incident, Graham was involved in a relationship with Foreman. Graham testified that during the time she was romantically involved with Williams, he was physically abusive and would stalk her. Graham, a postal carrier, testified that Williams would follow her on her mail route and threatened to harm her and her dog. In 2016, Williams pleaded guilty to cruelty to animals, attempted burglary, and menacing by stalking. Graham and her dog were the victims. Williams's defense counsel stipulated to the authenticity of the state's journal entry of the 2016 conviction but filed a motion in limine regarding other acts and prior convictions. The trial court denied the motion in limine. Graham then testified regarding several instances when Williams physically abused her, but she did not notify the police. The defense objected, and the trial court overruled those objections.

         {¶ 6} At the end of the trial, the jury found Williams guilty. Williams filed this timely appeal assigning three errors for our review:

I. The trial court erred by denying appellant's motion in limine and allowing the state to introduce hearsay and other acts evidence in violation of Evid.R. 401, 402, 403, and 404(b) and appellant's constitutional rights to due process, a fair trial and Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses;
II. Appellant's convictions were not supported by sufficient evidence, and the trial court erred by denying his motion for acquittal; and
III. The convictions were against the manifest weight of the evidence.

         II. Hearsay and Other Acts Evidence

         A. Standard of Review

         {¶ 7} Accordingly,

[w]e review motions in limine on an abuse of discretion standard. Mayfield v. Cuccarese, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 89594, 2008-Ohio-1812, ¶ 29. In general, the decision whether to admit or exclude relevant evidence lies within the discretion of the trial court. Rigby v. Lake Cty., 58 Ohio St.3d 269, 271, 569 N.E.2d 1056 (1991). An appellate court will not reverse that decision absent an abuse of discretion and a showing of prejudice. Id. Cohen & Co. v. Breen, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 100775, 2014-Ohio-3915, ¶ 18.

         B. Whether the Trial Court Erred by Denying Appellant's Motion in Limine and Overruling the Defense Objections by Admitting Other Acts Evidence and Irrelevant Evidence

         {¶ 8} Williams argues that the trial court erred by allowing Graham's testimony that Williams continuously stalked her because the incidents were too remote in time, and that a pattern of conduct had not been established. Williams contends that by allowing the jury to hear testimony that referred to events where a time frame was not identified, he was unfairly prejudiced.

Evid.R. 404(B) precludes the admission of evidence regarding a defendant's prior criminal acts when such evidence is offered to prove the defendant's character and that his actions were in conformity with that character. State v. Herring, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 104441, 2017-Ohio-743, ¶ 12. However, evidence of the defendant's prior criminal acts may be admissible for other purposes, such as to prove "motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident." Id.

State v. Nunez, 2017-Ohio-4295, 92 N.E.3d 294, ¶ 17 (8th Dist.).

         {¶ 9} In State v. Williams, 134 Ohio St.3d 521, 2012-Ohio-5695, 983 N.E.2d 1278, ¶ 19, the court stated that,

[e]vidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts of an accused tending to show the plan with which an act is done may be admissible for other purposes, such as those listed in Evid.R. 404(B) - to show proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident - and in considering other acts evidence, trial courts should conduct a three-step analysis.

         {¶ 10} Under the three-step analysis, first the trial court had to "consider whether the other acts evidence is relevant to making any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more or less probable than it would be without the evidence. Evid.R. 401." Id. at ¶ 20. Second, the trial court had to "consider whether evidence of the other crimes, wrongs, or acts is presented to prove the character of the accused in order to show activity in conformity therewith or whether the other acts evidence is presented for a legitimate purpose, such as those stated in Evid.R. 404(B)." Id. Third, the trial court had to "consider whether the probative value of the other acts evidence is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. See Evid.R 403." Id.

         {¶ 11} The state contends that the testimony was offered to demonstrate a pattern of conduct by Williams as a necessary element to establish that Williams stalked Graham. "Menacing by stalking is governed by R.C. 2903.211(A)(1), and provides that '[n]o person by engaging in a pattern of conduct shall knowingly cause another person to believe that the offender will cause physical harm to the other person or cause mental distress to the other person.'" State v. Hersh, 2012-Ohio-3807, 974 N.E.2d 161, ¶ 16 (8th Dist). R.C. 2903.211(D)(1) states that "a pattern of conduct means two or more actions or incidents closely related in time."

         {¶ 12} Williams contends that the state failed to establish a pattern of conduct, or that the events were closely related in time, and thus the testimonies regarding his prior behavior is inadmissible hearsay. However,

R.C. 2903.211 does not specifically state what constitutes incidents "closely related in time." Thus, whether incidents should be deemed closely related in time should be resolved by the trier of fact "'considering the evidence in the context of all the circumstances of the case.'" Middletown v. Jones, 167 Ohio App.3d 679, 2006-Ohio-3465, 856 N.E.2d 1003 (12th Dist.), ¶ 10, quoting State v. Honeycutt, 2d Dist. Montgomery No. 19004, 2002-Ohio-3490, ...

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