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State v. Caldwell

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

July 25, 2019

State of Ohio, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Walter Caldwell, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL from the Franklin County Municipal Court M.C. No. 2018CRB-19200

         On brief:

          Zachary M. Klein, City Attorney, Bill R. Hedrick, and Orly Ahroni, for appellee.

          Campbell Law, LLC, and April F. Campbell, for appellant.

         Argued:

          Orly Ahroni.

          DECISION

          BEATTY BLUNT, J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Walter Caldwell, presently appeals from a portion of a Franklin County Municipal Court judgment entry sentencing him to a six-month sentence as the result of the jury's finding him guilty of assaulting S.S., his former girlfriend. He presents three assignments of error for our consideration, and after due consideration of each, we affirm the municipal court's entry in its entirety.

         I. FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         {¶ 2} Plaintiff-appellee, State of Ohio, complaint filed on September 16, 2018, charges Caldwell with "knowingly caus[ing] physical harm to another, to wit: S.S. by punching her with a closed fist in the face at least three times" in violation of Columbus City Code 2303.13(A). See Compl.

         {¶ 3} Testimony at Caldwell's resultant October 17, 2018 trial revealed as follows. On the noted date, around 3:00 p.m., Caldwell and S.S., one of his girlfriends at the time, loudly argued outside the north side branch of the Columbus Public Library at 1423 North High Street. (Oct. 15 & 16, 2018, Tr. Vol. II at 261, 269; Oct. 17 & 18, 2018, Tr. Vol. III at 508-9.) Their disagreement continued as they entered the facility. (Tr. Vol. II at 269.) Library employee Daniel Wilkens was at the front desk near the entrance when Caldwell and S.S. entered. Wilkens asked them to leave, describing their "shouting," profane-laced interaction as a "violent argument." Caldwell declined to leave, opting instead to unsuccessfully attempt to hit Wilkens with an object.

         {¶ 4} Caldwell then chased S.S. across the library. Robert Parrish, the security guard on duty, instructed Caldwell to leave the premises. Caldwell obliged, although he told Parrish he would "kick his ass" on his way out.

         {¶ 5} Caldwell and S.S. exited the building. Caldwell then threw a box at S.S. but missed. She returned to the library's entrance. Caldwell attempted to follow her in, but Parrish exited the library in front of S.S. While Parrish's back was turned, Caldwell lunged toward S.S. and pushed her to the ground. She freed herself. At that point, Parrish walked in front of Caldwell. Words were exchanged, and then S.S., who was standing behind Parrish, sprayed Caldwell with a substance. Caldwell retreated, but then secured the box he had thrown at S.S. earlier and hit Parrish with the box while Parrish was standing in the doorway. During a scuffle, Caldwell punched Parrish, who then returned to the inside of the library. Caldwell proceeded to enter and exit the library twice before finally leaving the premises. Library officials then locked the doors. (Tr. Vol. II at 294.)

         {¶ 6} S.S. began walking towards Newport Music Hall. Caldwell followed and began hitting her. She escaped, and headed toward a Subway restaurant. She screamed for someone to call the police. While that call was being made, Caldwell found her and punched her in the face. She entered Subway and locked herself in the restaurant's bathroom. Caldwell fled, but thanks to descriptions provided by the five separate individuals who called 911, Columbus Police Officers Steven Baird and Matthew Brown captured and arrested him. The foregoing course of events occurred in less than one hour and within one-half mile of the library's location. (Tr. Vol III at 407-39.)

         {¶ 7} S.S. did not testify. Caldwell did. Caldwell stated that S.S. was one of his girlfriends at the time of the attack. (Tr. Vol III at 508-9.) He admitted to being with S.S. all day on September 16, 2018. Id. at 503. He acknowledged following her into the library, yelling at her, and calling her profane names. Id. at 503, 517. He acknowledged hitting Parrish. Id. at 506, 526. He said he threw a box containing a wooden gun at S.S. Id. at 503. He admitted to pushing her, but denied hitting her. Id. at 504, 507. He could not remember if he went to Subway. Id. . at 525.

         {¶ 8} The state charged Caldwell with two counts of assault as to S.S. and Parrish. See Sept. 16, 2018 Compl. The state additionally levied a domestic violence charge under Columbus City Code 2919.25 against Caldwell for his alleged punching of S.S., reasoning that S.S. was his live-in girlfriend on the date in focus. Id.

         {¶ 9} The jury returned a guilty verdict on both assault charges involving S.S. and Parrish. (See Oct. 19, 2018 Guilty Verdicts). The municipal court granted Caldwell's Crim.R. 29 motion as to the domestic violence count. The trial judge imposed two consecutive six-month sentences-one for the assault on Parrish and one for the assault on S.S.-and this appeal followed as to the latter sentence only.

         II. ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR

         {¶ 10} Caldwell presents three claimed errors for our review. Those include the following:

[1.] Caldwell's conviction for assault on [S.S.] should be reversed: the trial court changed the identity of this offense by constructively amending the complaint, which undermined ...

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