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State v. Scruggs

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

July 25, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
GREGORY SCRUGGS, JR., Defendant-Appellant.

          Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-18-628628-A

          Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney, and Christine M. Vacha, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellee.

          Edward M. Heindel, for appellant

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          MARY EILEEN KILBANE, ADMINISTRATIVE JUDGE

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Gregory Scruggs, Jr. ("Scruggs"), appeals his convictions for rape and sexual battery. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

         {¶ 2} In January 2018, Scruggs was charged with four counts of rape, three counts of kidnapping, and one count attempted rape.[1] The charges arose from separate incidents, involving three victims, and each was alleged to have occurred, approximately a year apart, between June 2015 and July 2017.

         {¶ 3} In September 2018, the trial court granted Scruggs's motion to sever the counts pertaining to each victim. In the same month, a jury trial commenced on one count each of rape and kidnapping pertaining to victim T.M.

         {¶ 4} At trial, 25-year-old T.M. testified that on July 23, 2017, she spent time with her best friend, Jamica, and her cousin, Van. They drove around, drank alcohol, and smoked marijuana. T.M. stated they bought a fifth of Hennessy and started drinking around noon. The three shared the alcohol as they drove around.

         {¶ 5} T.M. testified that around 6:00 p.m., they stopped to visit her sister T.M.II. While visiting her sister, T.M. exchanged text messages with a man named Maurice Bryant ("Bryant"), whom she had met several weeks earlier. Bryant indicated he would pick her up from her sister's house, so they could spend time together.

         {¶ 6} Bryant arrived at T.M.II's house around 7:00 p.m. Bryant was accompanied by another man, who was later identified as Scruggs. T.M. and Jamica entered Bryant's car and the four began driving around. Bryant and Scruggs were drinking alcohol and offered the women a drink, but they declined. T.M. testified she declined because she was already drunk, had been drinking dark liquor all day and Bryant and Scruggs were drinking light liquor.

         {¶ 7} T.M. testified that after driving around for a while, and after Bryant made stops at several houses, they went to Scruggs's house. Once there, the four sat around watching television. At some point, T.M. left with Bryant to go to the liquor store. When they returned to Scruggs's house, they continued to watch television. T.M. testified that while they were watching television, she fell asleep on the couch next to Bryant and Jamica, who were already asleep.

         {¶ 8} T.M. testified that at some point during the middle of the night, she awoke because she felt as if she was falling off the couch. T.M. stated the living room was dark, the television had been turned off, her shorts and underwear were pulled down, and she felt someone inserting his penis into her vagina. T.M. stated she pushed him off, pulled up her shorts, and went back to sleep because she still felt drunk. T.M. testified that she was awakened a second time when someone inserted his penis into her vagina. T.M. stated she again pushed him off her and pulled up her shorts. T.M. stated that as she was trying to become fully awake, she observed Bryant coming through the front door. T.M. told Bryant she was ready to leave and he took her home.

         {¶ 9} T.M. testified that she called T.M.II early the next morning and described what occurred and later went to the hospital where a rape kit was completed and where she indicated Bryant was the perpetrator. When T.M. reported the incidents to the police, she also indicated Bryant was the assailant.

         {¶ 10} T.M. testified that she subsequently sent Bryant a text stating, "[i]f you wanted to have sex then you could have just asked me. And then I told him to lose my number, and he said he already did." T.M. testified that at the time she sent the text, she thought it was Bryant who had sexually assaulted her so she was surprised when the rape-kit results indicated it was Scruggs who had committed the sexual assault.

         {¶ 11} T.M.'s older sister, T.M.II, testified that on July 23, 2017, T.M. and Jamica visited with her for a few hours. T.M.II stated her sister was drunk when she arrived, but that she continued drinking. T.M.II testified that Jamica was also drunk and fell asleep on the couch. T.M.II stated that someone in a dark-colored vehicle picked up her sister and Jamica. T.M.II testified that because she did not know the individual who picked up T.M., she communicated with her sister via text throughout the rest of the evening. T.M.II stated that the following morning, her sister contacted her and informed her of the sexual assault.

         {¶ 12} Scruggs testified on his own behalf. Scruggs testified he and Bryant picked up T.M. and her friend between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. on July 23, 2017. Scruggs stated that he and Bryant were drinking, offered the women a drink, but T.M. refused and informed them she would not drink light liquor because she had been drinking dark liquor. Scruggs stated they drove around for about an hour and then went to the house where he lived with his grandmother.

         {¶ 13} Scruggs testified that while at his grandmother's house, they sat around watching a show called "Power," while T.M.'s friend slept on the couch. Scruggs stated T.M. left with Bryant and they returned about 45 minutes later. Scruggs stated that a short time later, Bryant left again.

         {¶ 14} Scruggs testified that after Bryant left, he and T.M. began talking and flirting with each other. Scruggs stated that he and T.M. went into a room adjacent to the living room where they had consensual sex. Scruggs stated that T.M. asked if he had any money and he told her that he did. Scruggs stated they had sex in two different rooms. Scruggs testified that after they had sex, T.M. asked him not to tell Bryant and he told her he would not. After Bryant returned, he and Scruggs dropped T.M. and Jamica home.

         {¶ 15} The jury found Scruggs guilty of rape, but not guilty of kidnapping. Thereafter, Scruggs pled guilty to two counts of sexual battery relating to victims D.A. and E.W. The trial court sentenced Scruggs to five years in prison for rape and to two years each for the sexual battery charges. The trial court ordered concurrent sentences for a total prison term of five years.

         {¶ 16} Scruggs now appeals, assigning the following four errors for review:

Assignment of Error One
The conviction for rape was against the manifest weight of ...

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