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State v. Young

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

August 6, 2019

State of Ohio, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Hubert Young, Defendant-Appellee.

          APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas No. 98CR-6650

         On brief:

          Ron O'Brien, Prosecuting Attorney, and Michael P. Walton, for appellant.

         Argued:

          Michael P. Walton.

          DECISION

          KLATT, P.J.

         {¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant, State of Ohio, appeals from a judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas granting the application of defendant-appellee, Hubert Young, to seal the record of his prior conviction. For the reasons that follow, we reverse.

         {¶ 2} On November 30, 1998, a Franklin County Grand Jury indicted appellee on one count of theft, in violation of R.C. 2913.02, a felony of the fourth degree. On March 29, 1999, appellee pleaded guilty to the stipulated lesser-included offense of theft, in violation of R.C. 2913.02, a felony of the fifth degree. In a judgment entry of conviction and sentence filed on May 12, 1999, the trial court placed appellee on community control for four years and ordered him to pay restitution to State Farm Insurance in the amount of $4, 000 and to the victim in the amount of $500. Pursuant to an entry filed May 8, 2003, the trial court, noting that appellee had "failed to comply with the condition of Community Control that he pay restitution," extended the period of community control for one year until May 11, 2004. On May 12, 2004, the trial court filed an entry discharging appellee from community control because "defendant has complied with the terms of his probation, except that the restitution is not paid." (May 12, 2004 Entry at 1.)

         {¶ 3} On July 5, 2018, appellee filed his "Application for Order Sealing Record of Conviction" pursuant to R.C. 2953.32(A). On October 23, 2018, appellant filed an objection to the application, arguing that appellee had not complied with the filing requirements set forth in R.C. 2953.32(A)(1). Specifically, appellant contended that appellee had not paid his restitution in full at the time he was terminated from community control. Appellant argued that because appellee bore the burden of establishing that he is eligible to have his record sealed, he was required to provide evidence that he paid the restitution in full and complied with the three-year statutory waiting period set forth in R.C. 2953.32(A)(1).

         {¶ 4} On November 29, 2018, the trial court held a hearing on appellee's application. Appellee appeared pro se at the hearing and averred that he "looked into the - -the restitution that's owed." (Nov. 29, 2018 Tr. at 3.) He explained that he contacted State Farm and was told it "had sold this debt in 2008 to a collection firm [and] the only thing they could tell me is what they had received already, which was $1, 035 out of the debt I think." Id. Appellee stated that State Farm provided the name of the collection firm; however, he subsequently learned that the collection firm was no longer in business. According to appellee, the original collection firm was purchased by another firm in 2011 or 2012; appellee contacted the new firm and was told "they don't even handle this type of stuff anymore." Id. at 4. Upon the trial court's inquiry, appellee admitted that he had no documentation to support his contentions.

         {¶ 5} The trial court then explained that it could not grant appellee's application if he had not paid his court-ordered restitution. In response, appellee stated that State Farm informed him that it had reimbursed the victim $500. Appellee further averred that State Farm "gave me a number" and "what I came up with was $3, 800 and some change is what I actually owed"; however, State Farm could not accept payment from appellee because it no longer held the debt. Id. at 5. Following this exchange, the trial court continued the matter to allow appellee the opportunity to provide documentation demonstrating how much restitution had been paid and whether State Farm still had an interest in the debt. The prosecutor did not object to the continuance.

         {¶ 6} On January 17, 2019, the trial court held another hearing on the application at which appellant again appeared pro se. Appellee stated that immediately following the previous hearing on his application, he learned that he still owed $3, 416 in restitution and that he had "settled with State Farm." (Jan. 17, 2019 Tr. at 2-3.) A member of the probation department who was at the hearing confirmed that appellee "made $1, 400 in payments [and] showed where he paid to the individual victim of the $500 and then other fees that he paid went to the Treasurer and then he paid $984 toward State Farm." Id. Appellee provided the trial court with two letters which the court reviewed but did not summarize on the record, other than to indicate that one of the letters was dated December 27 and appeared to be from the attorney representing State Farm. Id. at 3-4. The court provided both letters to the prosecutor for review, stating "[t]here's two letters there, but the second letter says that it's * * *." Id. at 4. The court did not finish this sentence. The prosecutor did not address the documentation in any way. The court averred that, based on the information presented, it was satisfied that appellee had fulfilled his restitution obligation. The court concluded that "[g]iven the fact that the initial conviction was from 1998, the defendant is otherwise eligible and has resolved the restitution issue. The Court will grant the order at this time." Id. The prosecutor offered no objection to the court's decision.

         {¶ 7} On January 17, 2019, the trial court issued a judgment entry sealing the record of appellee's conviction. Appellant timely appealed to this court from the trial court's judgment and assigns the following as trial court error:

THE TRIAL COURT LACKED JURISDICTION TO GRANT THE APPLICATION TO SEAL THE RECORD OF CONVICTION, WHERE DEFENDANT HAD NOT RECEIVED A FINAL DISCHARGE ...

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