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State v. Hampton

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Stark

June 25, 2019

STATE OF OHIO Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
AARON A. HAMPTON Defendant-Appellant

          Criminal Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2018 CR 00758

          For Plaintiff-Appellee JOHN D. FERRERO PROSECUTING ATTORNEY KRISTINE W. BEARD ASSISTANT PROSECUTOR

          For Defendant-Appellant BERNARD L. HUNT

          JUDGES: Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P. J. Hon. John W. Wise, J. Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, J.

          OPINION

          Wise, J.

         {¶1} Defendant-Appellant Aaron A. Hampton appeals from his felony conviction, in the Court of Common Pleas, Stark County, on one count of domestic violence. Appellee is the State of Ohio. The relevant facts leading to this appeal are as follows.

         {¶2} On April 14, 2018, Officer Jennifer Henderson of the Canton Police Department was dispatched to a Gas City gas station located at 216 Roland Avenue NE. She thereupon took a report that appellant's girlfriend, R.P., had been physically assaulted. Shortly thereafter, the officer interviewed R.P. at Mercy Hospital.

         {¶3} On April 17, 2018, appellant was arrested, and on the next day appeared in the Canton Municipal Court with appointed counsel for arraignment. At that time, he entered a plea of not guilty. He was also advised that the municipal court had issued a no contact order regarding R.P.

         {¶4} Following a preliminary hearing in the municipal court on April 26, 2018, appellant was bound over to the Stark County Court of Common Pleas (hereinafter "trial court").

         {¶5} On or about May 31, 2018, the matter was presented to the Stark County Grand Jury. The victim, R.P., appeared and testified at that time. Appellant was thereupon indicted on one count of domestic violence, R.C. 2919.25(A), with two or more prior convictions, a third-degree felony.

         {¶6} The trial court subsequently set the case for a final pretrial on June 20, 2018, with a trial date of July 3, 2018.

         {¶7} On June 22, 2018, in violation of the aforementioned no contact order, appellant called R.P. via telephone from the Stark County Jail. The phone call was recorded and saved by the Sheriffs Office.

         {¶8} On June 29, 2018, the State filed a notice of intent to use evidence (citing Evid.R. 804(B)(6)) and a motion to continue the scheduled July 3rd trial. On July 2, 2018, the trial court filed a hearing disposition sheet indicating that the trial would be continued, with an entry to that effect to follow.

         {¶9} On July 3, 2018, the court held a hearing on the State's aforesaid motions. The State maintained that a continuance was necessary based on newly discovered evidence, including appellant's jail phone call to R. P. on June 22, 2018, which likely made the victim unavailable for trial, and certain records from Mercy Medical Center which included photos and the name of a potential witness. Reference was also made to a police bodycam video of the statements made by R.P. to law enforcement at Mercy Medical Center, although a copy thereof had been apparently received by defense counsel previously. See Discovery Receipt, June 13, 2018 (Docket Number 13). Over defense counsel's objection, the State's request for a continuance was granted, and the jury trial was re-set for July 17, 2018.

         {¶10} On July 16, 2018, appellant filed a motion to dismiss on speedy trial grounds, which was denied. See Tr. at 27.

         {¶11} The State called two witnesses on July 17, 2018: Officer Henderson of the Canton Police Department and Deputy Mark Hood of the Stark County Sheriff's Department. The victim, R.P., did not show up for the trial.

         {¶12} Officer Henderson recalled that when she arrived at Gas City on the afternoon of April 14, 2018, she learned that R.P. had already been taken to Mercy Medical Center. Tr. at 164. The officer conducted some of her investigation at the scene, and then proceeded to Mercy, about ten minutes away. Id. Speaking with R.P. at the hospital, Henderson observed that R.P. was "extremely shaken" and crying. Id. She was also, at least initially, "hard to understand because of being upset." Id. R.P. displayed signs of physical injury in the form of dried blood on her lip, visible red marks on her neck, and scraping to one of her knees. Tr. at 167-168. After more investigation, Henderson "learned that [appellant] and the victim had resided together at the victim's address." Tr. at 169. The conversation between Henderson and R.P. was captured on the officer's bodycam.

         {¶13} The remaining witness called by the State, Deputy Hood, who is assigned to the inmate services unit, testified that appellant had called R.P. from a jail telephone on the afternoon of June 22, 2018. The audio of the call was then played for the jury over appellant's objection. Tr. at 210.

         {¶14} During the jail call, R.P. can be heard telling appellant that she wanted to come to the trial just to have an opportunity to see him at the courthouse. Appellant then told R.P. that if she does not show up for the trial, he won't have to "fight" the charge and she would be able to see him. R.P. then stated her intention not to show up for trial. State's Exhibit 4 (played for the jury at Tr. 211).

         {¶15} After the presentation of the State's evidence, appellant made a Crim.R. 29 motion for acquittal, essentially arguing that the State had not proven that appellant was a "family or household member for purposes of the domestic violence statute. Said motion was overruled by the trial court. Tr. at 215-216.

         {¶16} The jury thereafter deliberated and found appellant guilty as charged in the indictment.

         {¶17} The trial court, following a hearing on July 23, 2018, sentenced appellant inter alia to 36 months in prison.

         {¶18} On August 20, 2018, appellant filed a notice of appeal. He herein raises the following three Assignments of Error:

         {¶19} "I. THE TRIAL COURT VIOLATED THE DEFENDANT'S RIGHT UNDER THE SIXTH AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND THE OHIO CONSTITUTION IN SECTION 10, ARTICLE I.

         {¶20} "II. THE TRIAL COURT'S FINDING OF GUILT WAS AGAINST THE MANIFEST WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE AND WAS NOT ...


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