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State v. Gunnels

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

July 11, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
KEVIN GUNNELS, Defendant-Appellant.

          Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-17-623902-A

          Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney, and Steven N. Szelagiewicz, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellee.

          Joseph V. Pagano, for appellant.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          EILEEN A. GALLAGHER, JUDGE.

         {¶ 1} High on PCP and driving in excess of 100 m.p.h. down a city street, defendant-appellant Kevin Gunnels hit and killed two innocent people, Adrian Stradford and Connie Anderson. Gunnels pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, both felonies of the first degree. Gunnels also pleaded guilty to three misdemeanors - two counts of criminal damaging related to the vehicles involved in the collision and one count of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For each aggravated vehicular homicide count, the trial court sentenced Gunnels to 8 years in prison and ordered consecutive service for a total term of 16 years. The court imposed concurrent sentences for the misdemeanor counts that subsumed into the larger sentence.

         {¶ 2} At the sentencing hearing, the court also imposed sentence on Gunnels in a second case which was pending at the time of the fatal accident. In that case, Gunnels had pleaded guilty to one count of felony domestic violence after punching a woman in the face. The court sentenced Gunnels to one year in prison and ordered that sentence to run consecutive to the 16-year term in the other case for a total sentence of 17 years in prison.

         {¶ 3} On appeal, Gunnels raises three assignments of error, arguing the trial court erred by imposing consecutive sentences, [1] by denying his request for a mitigation of penalty report and by failing to calculate his jail-time credit. For the reasons that follow, we affirm Gunnels' sentence and find no error in the court's denial of his request for a mitigation report, however, we reverse and remand the case for the court to determine and journalize his jail-time credit.

         Law and Analysis

         Consecutive Sentences

         {¶ 4} In the first assignment of error, Gunnels challenges the imposition of consecutive sentences. He concedes that the trial court made the appropriate findings to impose consecutive sentences, but argues that the record does not support those findings. We disagree.

         {¶ 5} R.C. 2929.14(C)(4) requires a trial court to make specific findings before imposing consecutive sentences and to incorporate those findings into its sentencing journal entry. State v. Bonnell, 140 Ohio St.3d 209, 2014-Ohio-3177, 16 N.E.3d 659, at syllabus. A trial court is not, however, required to articulate reasons in support of its decision to impose consecutive sentences. Id. "[A]s long as the reviewing court can discern that the trial court engaged in the correct analysis and can determine that the record contains evidence to support the findings, consecutive sentences should be upheld." Id. at ¶ 29.

         {¶ 6} Where the trial court made the requisite consecutive sentencing findings, R.C. 2953.08(G)(2) requires this court to affirm an order of consecutive service unless we "clearly and convincingly" find that the record does not support the court's findings in support of consecutive sentences. State v. Venes, 2013-Ohio-1891, 992 N.E.2d 453, ¶ 21 (8th Dist.) ("This is an extremely deferential standard of review.").

         {¶ 7} Review of the record reflects that the high-speed crash and resulting deaths was not an isolated incident of criminal behavior. As previously stated, Gunnels committed these crimes while he had a pending felony domestic violence case. Moreover, we note that Gunnels did not have a valid driver's license at the time of the crash, nor at any other time in his life. The prosecutor indicated Gunnels did have a valid temporary driver's license at one point, but that it was suspended in 1993.

         {¶ 8} Beyond these offenses, Gunnels also has an extensive criminal history. Before the court imposed consecutive sentences, it discussed Gunnels' previous DUI and domestic violence convictions. It further outlined his criminal ...


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