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State v. Sweeting

Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton

June 14, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DEIONANDREA SWEETING, Defendant-Appellant.

          Criminal Appeal From Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas TRIAL NO. B-1706232

          Joseph T. Deters, Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney, and Paula E. Adams, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Plaintiff-Appellee,

          Angela Glaser, for Defendant-Appellant.

          OPINION

          ZAYAS, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         {¶1} Following a bench trial, defendant-appellant Deionandrea Sweeting was found guilty of violating R.C. 2950.04 for failing to register his address with the Hamilton County Sheriff within five days of coming into the county, a felony of the third degree. He was sentenced to 18 months' incarceration. He appeals his conviction arguing that the trial court erred in conducting a bench trial without a proper jury waiver. Sweeting contends that the court failed to strictly comply with R.C. 2945.05 because he did not sign a jury waiver, and that any purported waiver was not knowingly and intelligently made. Because Sweeting did not execute a valid jury waiver, the judgment of the trial court is reversed, and the matter remanded for a new trial.

         Pretrial Proceedings

         {¶2} Sweeting was indicted on October 24, 2017, for failing to register in violation of R.C. 2950.04. After his first attorney withdrew from his case, the trial court appointed a second attorney on December 18, 2017. Approximately a month later, Sweeting filed a motion to remove counsel for failing to file an affidavit of disqualification, and the trial court appointed a third attorney on February 2, 2018. At that point, Sweeting waived his right to counsel and proceeded to represent himself. The trial court appointed standby counsel at Sweeting's request. The case was scheduled for trial on March 7, 2018.

         {¶3} On the day of trial, Sweeting was informed that a jury was present and waiting in the hallway for the proceedings to begin. Sweeting replied, "I never asked for a jury. I am having a bench trial. You was the one that set it up for a jury. Ain't nobody told me nothing about that [Judge] Dinkelacker." Sweeting reaffirmed that he wanted a bench trial, and the trial court searched for a waiver form.

         {¶4} While the court was securing a jury-waiver form, Sweeting addressed the court and asked for a continuance for a litany of reasons that the trial court patiently addressed. First, Sweeting had filed an affidavit of disqualification alleging that he had filed criminal charges against the judge and asking that the judge be removed from the case due to the appearance of impropriety. The judge informed Sweeting that the Ohio Supreme Court had overruled his affidavit. Additionally, the court explained that no criminal charges had been instituted against him, and that the court proceedings could continue.

         {¶5} Finally, Sweeting explained that he was not prepared for trial because his standby counsel told him that the trial had been postponed for a day, so he did not have the necessary paperwork for trial. Standby counsel confirmed that he had told Sweeting earlier that morning that the trial had been delayed until the following day. The court overruled the request and reminded Sweeting that he had never come to court prepared and had been warned to be ready for trial.

         {¶6} After the continuance was denied, Sweeting asked the judge to recuse himself alleging that the judge was biased and prejudiced against him. After allowing Sweeting to express his opinion, the court asked him if he wanted to proceed with the jury. Sweeting opined that juries do not know about the law and can be persuaded. When standby counsel addressed the court and stated, "Your honor, before we bring the jury in," Sweeting interrupted and exclaimed, "I am not having no jury. I object to this. I am not having no jury because you are trying to blame it on the jury. You are not going to blame it on the jury. I want a bench trial."

         {¶7} When the court attempted to confirm that he wanted a bench trial, Sweeting responded, "You are not binding me in no contract, no contract with you." Shortly thereafter, the court engaged in following colloquy:

THE COURT: I have a jury waiting out there.
MR. SWEETING: I am not picking no jury. I am not having no jury.
THE COURT: You do not want a jury. Okay. I have in my hand, then, a waiver of trial by jury. Before we can proceed - -
MR. SWEETING: You are not binding me in no contract.
THE COURT: It says: I Deionandrea Sweeting - - listen for a second, please. I Deionandrea Sweeting, the defendant in the above cause, hereby voluntarily waive my right to a trial by jury. I fully understand
- -
MR. SWEETING: I am not binding any contract you trying to put me in. I am not. I am not binding into any contract what you talking about.
THE COURT: I am reading this to you.
MR. SWEETING: I ain't binding into no contract.
THE COURT: You do not want a jury; is that correct?
MR. SWEETING: I am not going to allow you to hear me on the case.
THE COURT: You don't want a jury?
MR. SWEETING: I am not going to allow you to hear me on the case. I didn't say that. You keep saying that. You trying to bribe me. You trying to bribe me into settling the matter. You are not going to bribe me. I am ...

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