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State v. Spurgeon

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Sixth District, Fulton

July 19, 2019

State of Ohio Appellee
Tiffany M. Spurgeon Appellant

          Trial Court No. CRB 1800021.

          Scott A. Haselman, Fulton County Prosecuting Attorney, for appellee.

          Autumn D. Adams, for appellant.


          Zmuda, J.

         {¶ 1} Appellant, Tiffany Spurgeon, appeals the judgment of the Fulton County Court, Eastern District, denying her motion to dismiss as a sanction for prosecutor's alleged failure to disclose material evidence in advance of trial and sentencing her to seven days of confinement followed by five years of community control after a jury found her guilty of cruelty to animals. Finding no error, we affirm.

         I. Facts and Procedural Background

         {¶ 2} On January 10, 2018, appellant was indicted on one count of failing to register a dog in violation of R.C. 955.21, a minor misdemeanor; failing to require a dog to wear its tag in violation of R.C. 955.10, a minor misdemeanor; and cruelty to animals in violation of R.C. 959.13, a misdemeanor of the second degree.[1] Immediately preceding the July 13, 2018 trial on these charges, appellant made an oral motion for dismissal of all charges based on the prosecutor's failure to disclose allegations of cruelty to animals against the Fulton County Dog Warden in violation of Crim.R. 16 and Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.E.2d 215 (1963). Following a brief argument, the trial court denied appellant's motion and the matter proceeded to trial. Therein, the following facts were established.

         {¶ 3} On December 7, 2017, appellant contacted a local animal clinic's emergency phone line to inquire about treatment for her dog's leg injury. After being advised on first aid treatment, appellant declined emergency services and brought the dog, a boxer, to the clinic the following morning. There, the veterinarian noted the dog's leg wound and also that it was generally shorter and smaller than comparable dogs of her breed. The veterinarian performed diagnostic imaging tests of the dog's leg to rule out broken bones and provided it with antibiotics to treat the wound. She also noted the dog weighed only thirteen pounds at the time of the exam. She anticipated a boxer aged approximately one year should weigh between fifty and sixty pounds. Appellant testified the dog had been losing weight since approximately Thanksgiving 2017, but she had attempted conservative treatment recommended by a friend rather than seeking professional assistance for that issue.

         {¶ 4} Through the initial treatment, the veterinarian attempted to identify a cause of the dog's low weight. This included multiple diagnostic tests of the dog's blood as well as organ function. Following review of the test results, the veterinarian determined the dog's low weight and emaciated state was due to malnourishment from lack of proper feeding. Appellant testified that she fed the dog on a regular schedule and only declined to seek professional treatment for the weight loss issue due to the expense. That notwithstanding, the veterinarian contacted the Fulton County Dog Warden to advise him of her findings. The warden issued a criminal complaint against appellant containing the present charges.

         {¶ 5} Since the initial treatment and through trial, the dog remained in the care of the clinic. During that time, with regular feeding, it has gained weight and its leg injury has healed. Appellant continued to contact the clinic for updates on the dog's condition throughout that time. The veterinarian now considers the dog healthy.

         {¶ 6} For her defense, appellant offered testimony of one witness, her daughter, and also testified on her own behalf. Appellant's daughter testified the dog was provided with adequate water and served food three times a day. Appellant likewise testified the dog was fed three times a day. She also testified the dog weighed between 22 and 25 pounds at Thanksgiving 2017, and had always been small in stature. The veterinarian testified that based on her examination and the test results she did not believe the dog had been fed on the schedule suggested by appellant. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found appellant guilty of cruelty to animals in violation of R.C. 959.13 and the matter was continued for sentencing.

         {¶ 7} At sentencing, the trial court ordered appellant to serve a 7-day jail term, reserving a 90-day jail term, plus 5 years of community control. It is from this judgment that appellant has filed a timely notice of appeal asserting the following assignments of error:

Assignment of Error No. 1: The trial court abused its discretion in denying Appellant's Motion to Dismiss for the State's failure to produce discovery regarding one of the State's witnesses.

Assignment of Error No. 2: Appellant's conviction is against the manifest weight of the evidence, and Appellant is entitled to a new trial.

         II. ...

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