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State v. Sanabria

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Ashtabula

July 15, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
SANTO SANABRIA, JR., Defendant-Appellee.

          Criminal Appeal from the Ashtabula County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2018 CR 0048.

          Nicholas A. Iarocci, Ashtabula County Prosecutor, and Shelley M. Pratt, Assistant Prosecutor, Ashtabula County Courthouse, (For Plaintiff-Appellant).

          April Grabman, Law Offices of Michelle M. French, LLC, (For Defendant-Appellee).

          OPINION

          MATT LYNCH, J.

         {¶1} Plaintiff-appellant, the State of Ohio, appeals the "ruling" of the Ashtabula County Court of Common Pleas, acquitting defendant, Santo Sanabria, Jr., of Felonious Assault pursuant to Criminal Rule 29. For the following reasons, the State's assignment of error has merit although this court is without authority to alter the fact of Sanabria's acquittal and, therefore, we affirm the judgment of the court below.

         {¶2} On January 24, 2018, the Ashtabula County Grand Jury indicted Sanabria of the following: Felonious Assault (Count One), a felony of the second degree in violation of R.C. 2903.11(A)(1); Felonious Assault (Count Two), a felony of the second degree in violation of R.C. 2903.11(A)(2); Abduction (Count Three), a felony of the third degree in violation of R.C. 2905.02(A)(2); Disrupting Public Services (Count Four), a felony of the fourth degree in violation of R.C. 2909.04(A)(1); Aggravated Possession of Drugs (Count Five), a felony of the fifth degree in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A) and (C)(1)(a); and Domestic Violence (Count Six), a misdemeanor of the first degree in violation of R.C. 2919.25(A).

         {¶3} On January 31, 2018, Sanabria appeared for arraignment and entered a plea of not guilty to all charges.

         {¶4} The case was tried before a jury from June 11-12, 2018. Count Five (Aggravated Possession of Drugs) of the Indictment was dismissed on the State's Motion. Counts One (Felonious Assault), Two (Felonious Assault), and Four (Disrupting Public Services) were dismissed on Sanabria's motion for acquittal. The jury returned a verdict of guilty as to Counts Three (Abduction) and Six (Domestic Violence).

         {¶5} On September 26, 2018, a sentencing hearing was held at which the trial court ordered Sanabria to serve twenty-four months in prison for Abduction and six months in prison for Domestic Violence, each sentence to be served concurrently with the other. The court's sentence was memorialized in a September 28, 2018 Judgment Entry of Sentence.

         {¶6} On October 4, 2018, the State filed a Motion for Leave to Appeal pursuant to Appellate Rule 5(C), on the grounds that "the trial court failed to apply the appropriate case law when it determined that the victim's broken nose was not serious physical harm." This court granted leave on November 21, 2018, recognizing that this issue is "capable of repetition." State ex rel. Ramirez-Ortiz v. Twelfth Dist Court of Appeals, 151 Ohio St.3d 46, 2017-Ohio-7816, 85 N.E.3d 725, ¶ 11 ("the state can appeal a discrete legal issue when the question is capable of repetition yet evading review (by virtue of the acquittal)").

         {¶7} On appeal the State raises the following assignment of error: "The trial court [erred] in granting appellee's Criminal Rule 29 motion for the Felonious Assault charge on the basis that the victim did not sustain serious physical harm."

         {¶8} "The court on motion of a defendant * * * shall order the entry of a judgment of acquittal of one or more offenses charged in the indictment * * * if the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction of such offense or offenses." Crim.R. 29(A). Sufficiency is a test of the adequacy of the evidence either to "determine whether the case may go to the jury or whether the evidence is legally sufficient to support the jury verdict as a matter of law." (Citation omitted.) State v. Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d 380, 386, 678 N.E.2d 541 (1997). "An appellate court's function when reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support a criminal conviction is to examine the evidence admitted at trial to determine whether such evidence, if believed, would convince the average mind of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," i.e., "whether, after viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Jenks, 61 Ohio St.3d 259, 574 N.E.2d 492 (1991), paragraph two of the syllabus.

         {¶9} In the present case, Sanabria moved for acquittal at the close of the State's evidence. The trial court granted the motion with respect to the first count of Felonious Assault. In order to convict Sanabria of Felonious Assault, the State was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he "knowingly * * * [c]ause[d] serious physical harm to another." R.C. 2903.11(A)(1).

         {¶10} The court ...


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