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State v. Swaney

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Third District, Auglaize

August 5, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MARK A. SWANEY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

          Appeal from Auglaize County Municipal Court Trial Court No. 2018 CRB 396

          Thomas J. Lucente, Jr. for Appellant

          Laia Zink for Appellee

          OPINION

          PRESTON, J.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant, Mark A. Swaney ("Swaney"), appeals the November 2, 2018 judgment of the Auglaize County Municipal Court. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         {¶2} This case stems from an April 28, 2018 incident in which Mary Music ("Music"), a tenant at Defiance Commons, contacted the Wapakoneta Police Department to assist her in entering her apartment after she lost her keys. (Doc. No. 7). Swaney, the maintenance worker at the complex, got into an altercation with one of the responding officers, culminating in his arrest. (Id.).

         {¶3} On April 30, 2018, a complaint was filed in the Auglaize County Municipal Court charging Swaney with a single count of obstructing official business in violation of R.C. 2921.31(A), a second-degree misdemeanor. (Doc. No. 8). On May 2, 2018, Swaney appeared for arraignment and entered a plea of not guilty. (Doc. No. 12).

         {¶4} A jury trial was held on September 24, 2018. (Doc. No. 53); (Sept. 24, 2018 Tr. at 1). At the close of the State's case, Swaney made a motion for acquittal under Crim.R. 29, which the trial court denied. (Sept. 24, 2018 Tr. at 112-113). The jury found Swaney guilty of obstructing official business in violation of R.C. 2921.31(A). (Doc. No. 53); (Sept. 24, 2018 Tr. at 162). On September 25, 2018, the trial court filed its judgment entry of conviction. (Doc. No. 53).

         {¶5} On November 2, 2018, the trial court sentenced Swaney to three years of community control, a $500 fine, and 90 days in jail with all 90 days suspended. (Doc. No. 55); (Nov. 2, 2018 Tr. at 20-23).

         {¶6} On November 21, 2018, Swaney filed a notice of appeal. (Doc. No. 60). He raises three assignments of error. We will address the first two assignments of error together.

         Assignment of Error No. I

         The trial court erred in denying appellant's motion for acquittal at the close of the State's case in chief, where there was legally insufficient evidence to establish each material element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

         Assignment of Error No. II

         Appellant's conviction on Obstruction of Official Business was against the manifest weight of the evidence and is contrary to law.

         {¶7} In his first two assignments of error, Swaney argues that the trial court erred by denying his Crim.R. 29(A) motion for acquittal and that his obstructing-official-business conviction is against the manifest weight of the evidence.

         {¶8} Crim.R. 29(A) provides:

(A) Motion for Judgment of Acquittal. The court on motion of a defendant or on its own motion, after the evidence on either side is closed, shall order the entry of a judgment of acquittal of one or more offenses charged in the indictment, information, or complaint, if the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction of such offense or offenses. The court may not reserve ruling on a motion for judgment of acquittal made at the close of the state's case.

         "An appellate court reviews a denial of a Crim.R. 29 motion for judgment of acquittal using the same standard that is used to review a sufficiency of the evidence claim." State v. Lightner, 3d Dist. Hardin No. 6-08-11, 2009-Ohio-544, ¶ 11, citing State v. Carter, 72 Ohio St.3d 545, 553 (1995).

         {¶9} "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." State v. Jenks, 61 Ohio St.3d 259 (1991), paragraph two of the syllabus, superseded by state constitutional amendment on other grounds, State v. Smith, 80 Ohio St.3d 89 (1997). Accordingly, "[t]he relevant inquiry is 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." Id. "In deciding if the evidence was sufficient, we neither resolve evidentiary conflicts nor assess the credibility of witnesses, as both are functions reserved for the trier of fact." State v. Jones, 1st Dist. Hamilton Nos. C-120570 and C-120571, 2013-Ohio-4775, ¶ 33, citing State v. Williams, 197 Ohio App.3d 505, 2011-Ohio-6267, ¶ 25 (1st Dist.). See also State v. Berry, 3d Dist. Defiance No. 4-12-03, 2013-Ohio-2380, ¶ 19 ("Sufficiency of the evidence is a test of adequacy rather than credibility or weight of the evidence."), citing State v. Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d 380, 386 (1997).

         {¶10} On the other hand, in determining whether a conviction is against the manifest weight of the evidence, a reviewing court must examine the entire record, "'weigh[ ] the evidence and all reasonable inferences, consider[ ] the credibility of witnesses and determine[ ] whether in resolving conflicts in the evidence, the [trier of fact] clearly lost its way and created such a manifest miscarriage of justice that the conviction must be reversed and a new trial ordered.'" Thompkins at 387, quoting State v. Martin, 20 Ohio App.3d 172, 175 (1st Dist.1983). A reviewing court must, however, allow the trier of fact appropriate discretion on matters relating to the weight of the evidence and the credibility of the witnesses. State v. DeHass, 10 Ohio St.2d 230, 231 (1967). When applying the manifest-weight standard "[o]nly in exceptional cases, where the evidence 'weighs heavily against the conviction,' should an appellate court overturn the trial court's judgment." State v. Haller, 3d Dist. Allen No. 1-11-34, 2012-Ohio-5233, ¶ 9, quoting State v. Hunter, 131 Ohio St.3d 67, 2011-Ohio-6524, ¶ 119.

         {¶11} Swaney was convicted of obstructing official business in violation of R.C. 2921.31(A), which provides:

No person, without privilege to do so and with purpose to prevent, obstruct, or delay the performance by a public official of any authorized act within the public official's official capacity, shall do any act that hampers or impedes a public official in the performance of the public official's lawful duties.

         To obtain a conviction for obstructing official business the State must prove that (1) the defendant acted (2) without privilege to do so and (3) with purpose to prevent, obstruct, or delay the performance by a public official of any authorized act within the public official's official capacity and that (4) the defendant's act hampered or impeded the public official (5) in the performance of the public official's lawful duties. See State v. Pierce, 3d Dist. Seneca No. 13-16-36, 2017-Ohio-4223, ¶ 11, quoting State v. Dice, 3d Dist. Marion No. 9-04-41, 2005-Ohio-2505, ¶ 19, citing R.C. 2921.31(A). "A person acts purposely when it is the person's specific intention to cause a certain result, or, when the gist of the offense is a prohibition against conduct of a certain nature, regardless of what the offender intends to accomplish thereby, it is the offender's specific intention to engage in conduct of that nature." R.C. 2901.22(A). "'The purpose with which a person does an act is determined from the manner in which it is done, the means used, and all other facts and circumstances in evidence.'" State v. Puterbaugh, 142 Ohio App.3d 185, 189 (4th Dist.2001), quoting State v. Hardin, 16 Ohio App.3d 243, 245 (10th Dist.1984).

         {¶12} At trial, Music, a resident of Defiance Commons, testified that on April 28, 2018, she called the Wapakoneta Police Department for assistance getting into her apartment after she lost her keys. (Sept. 24, 2018 Tr. at 61-62). Music stated that prior to contacting the police, she asked Swaney, the maintenance worker at Defiance Commons, to unlock her door for her, but he refused. (Id. at 62). Music stated that when the police officers arrived, they helped her get into her apartment through an unlocked window. (Id. at 63).

         {¶13} On cross-examination, she stated that the policy at Defiance Commons is that the management will only unlock apartments during their business hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays because ...


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