Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common
Pleas Case No. CR-17-617940-B
Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting
Attorney, and Kelly Needham, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney,
Zacharias, for appellant
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
T. GALLAGHER, JUDGE.
1} Defendant-appellant, Del Ricco Morris
("Morris"), appeals from his convictions following
a bench trial. He raises the following assignments of error
1. The trial court was without jurisdiction to conduct a
bench trial because the requirements of R.C. 2945.05 were not
2. Insufficient evidence supported appellant's
3. Appellant's convictions are against the manifest
weight of the evidence.
2} After careful review of the record and relevant
case law, we affirm Morris's convictions and sentence.
Procedural and Factual History
3} In June 2017, Morris and his codefendants, Denzel
Carr ("Denzel") and Rai'Shoun Morris
("Rai'Shoun"), were named in a 14-count
indictment, charging them each with aggravated robbery in
violation of R.C. 2911.01(A)(1), with one- and three-year
firearm specifications (Count 1); robbery in violation of RC.
2911.02(A)(1), with one- and three-year firearm
specifications (Count 2); robbery in violation of RC.
2911.02(A)(2), with one- and three-year firearm
specifications (Counts 3-6); robbery in violation of R.C.
2911.02(A)(3), with one- and three-year firearm
specifications (Counts 7-10); and kidnapping in violation of
RC. 2905.01(A)(2), with one- and three-year firearm
specifications (Counts 11-14). The charges brought against
Morris stemmed from allegations that he participated in the
armed robbery of a jewelry store located in Richmond Heights,
4} In February 2018, Morris pleaded guilty to
aggravated robbery and kidnapping, as amended in Counts 1 and
11 of the indictment. The remaining counts were nolled. Prior
to the imposition of a sentence, however, Morris filed a
motion to withdraw his plea. The trial court granted
Morris's motion to withdraw and the matter was scheduled
5} In August 2018, Morris appeared before the court
and executed a written waiver of his right to a trial by
jury. In open court, Morris orally confirmed that he signed
the written waiver, that he understood the rights he was
waiving, and that it was his desire to waive a jury trial.
The matter then proceeded to a bench trial, where the
following evidence was adduced.
6} On May 22, 2017, Susan Kozlowski, Steve
Kozlowski, Erica Hollar, Sydney Givens, and Bill Mavrakis
("Mavrakis") were working at Sands Jewelry Company
in Richmond Heights, Ohio. At approximately 4:19 p.m., two
masked men entered the store with guns. Video footage of the
incident was captured by the store's surveillance
7} Erica Hollar testified that she was working in
the store's main showroom at the time of the incident.
Hollar stated that when the masked men walked inside the
store, she noticed that each man had a gun. Hollar described
the first man as "a thin-build black man with a mask on,
dark clothes." She testified that the second masked man
was wearing "a very similar ensemble" and was
approximately the same height as the first man. Hollar
estimated that the men were "young adults."
8} Hollar testified that when she encountered the
masked men, she "froze because they were saying,
Don't move." Hollar stated that one of the men then
pointed his gun at her and ordered her to get on the ground.
Hollar testified that she was terrified and stayed on the
ground and faced the wall until her boss, Susan Kozlowski,
told her to run out of the store. Hollar did not observe
anything while she was facing the wall, but heard one of the
individuals tell Mrs. Kozlowski "you have to give us
something or we're going to shoot somebody."
9} Mrs. Kozlowski is the co-owner of the jewelry
store. She testified that at approximately 4:19 p.m. on May
22, 2017, she was working in the jewelry store when she heard
a commotion and saw her husband, Steven Kozlowski, running
towards the back of the building. Mrs. Kozlowski testified
that when she realized the store was being robbed, she
confronted one of the masked men and yelled at him to get out
of her store. As the robbery was occurring, Mrs. Kozlowski
observed Hollar "on her knees with her hands over her
head to protect herself." Mrs. Kozlowski also observed
another store employee, Sydney Givens, hiding under a table.
When one of the masked men pointed his gun at the back of
Hollar's head, Mrs. Kozlowski attempted to persuade him
that it was "not worth killing somebody over this."
The masked man responded, "I'm going to get me
some." Despite this threat, Mrs. Kozlowski boldly told
the masked man that they "aren't going to get a
thing." Ultimately, the masked men fled the scene
without taking any of the store's property.
10} Mrs. Kozlowski testified that the masked men
were African-American. She further stated that "they
were just wearing dark, head to toe, and something over their
faces." Mrs. Kozlowski testified that the gun she
observed pointed at Hollar was "a silver color."
However, Mrs. Kozlowski admitted that she was not wearing her
eyeglasses at the time of the robbery and, therefore, was not
able to see the two men clearly.
11} Steven Kozlowski testified that on the day of
the incident, he was working in the front main showroom of
the store with Hollar and Givens. Mr. Kozlowski testified
that he began to walk towards the back of the store to speak
with Mrs. Kozlowski when he was suddenly confronted by a
masked man holding a gun. Mr. Kozlowski testified that he saw
two masked men in the store and that both men were in
possession of a gun. One of the masked men pointed a gun
directly at Mr. Kozlowski and stated, "Don't move,
don't move." Despite the masked man's
directives, however, Mr. Kozlowki ran down the hallway
towards the back of the building. Once inside a secure
location, Mr. Kozlowski called 911. The 911 call was played
12} While standing by the backdoor of the store, Mr.
Kozlowski noticed a suspicious car that was parked near the
back of the property that "certainly didn't belong
there." Mr. Kozlowski suspected the car was the
"get-away car" and had store employee, Bill
Mavrakis, take photographs of the car and its license plate.
While this was occurring, Mr. Kozlowski suddenly observed
"the two guys walk right by us fairly slowly, masks are
off." Mr. Kozlowski clarified that his statement
regarding "the two guys" referred to "the two
guys that were in the store with the guns." Mr.
Kozlowski explained that he was able to identify the men as
the masked robbers because "they had masks and they were
dressed exactly the same." Mr. Kozlowski noted their
dark clothing, their gloves, and the stripe on one of the
men's pants. Mr. Kozlowski further stated that he could
see that the men still had their masks and that they
attempted to "try to make a move to put [their] masks
back up" once they noticed Mr. Kozlowski and Mavrakis.
Mr. Kozlowski testified that he was able to get a good look
at one of the individuals, whom he identified in court as
being Morris. In addition, Mr. Kozlowski expressed that he
was confident Morris was the individual who pointed a gun at
him inside the jewelry store because the perpetrator's
face was only covered from his nose down, and Morris has
"very distinctive eyes."
13} When the two men "started to run" from
the scene, Mavrakis immediately began chasing them on foot.
At that point, Mr. Kozlowski got into his own vehicle and
followed the two men as they ran. Mr. Kozlowski testified
that he observed the men get into a "gold colored
car" that was driven by a third individual. Mr.
Kozlowski stated that he provided the 911 dispatcher the
license plate number of the gold car and proceeded to follow
the gold car through the streets of Cleveland until he was
ordered by the police to stand down.
14} Mavrakis testified that he was working as an
independent contractor at the jewelry store on May 22, 2017.
During the robbery, Mavrakis was located in the rear repair
shop of the store with Mrs. Kozlowski. Mavrakis testified
that he and Mrs. Kozlowski "heard a noise" and saw
Mr. Kozlowski "running down the hallway, which was very
odd." When they went to the nearby hallway to
investigate, Mavrakis observed a masked man with a gun.
Mavrakis testified that while Mrs. Kozlowski was confronting
a masked man, Mr. Kozlowski grabbed him, took him outside,
and stated, "We're being robbed." Once outside,
Mavrakis took photographs of a suspicious vehicle. Shortly
thereafter, Mavrakis observed a man walking near the back of
the property. Mavrakis testified that he "assumed"
that the man he observed walking was the masked gunman he
previously observed in the store. Mavrakis testified that the
man was not wearing the mask over his face at that time.
However, when the man noticed Mavrakis, "he pulled a
mask back onto his head." Mavrakis stated that the man
"was struggling to pull it (the mask) on because he
still had the gun in his hand." Mavrakis stated that a
second individual joined the walking man several seconds
later. Once the men noticed Mavrakis, "they both
ran." Mavrakis attempted to chase after them but quickly
"lost track of them."
15} Detective Charles Duffy of the City of Richmond
Heights Police Department, testified that he was assigned to
investigate the jewelry store robbery. In the course of his
investigation, Det. Duffy used the license plate number
provided by Mr. Kozlowski to determine that the gold car was
registered to Lamar Carr. Upon contacting Carr, Det. Duffy
learned that either Carr's parents or brother,
codefendant Denzel Carr, were in possession of the car on the
day of the robbery. Det. Duffy testified that Lamar Carr
provided him with Denzel's cell-phone number. In turn,
Det. Duffy contacted Denzel's cell-phone provider and
"sent an exigent circumstance request for immediate
pings and traces on that cell phone." Shortly
thereafter, the cell-phone provider sent Det. Duffy
"longitude and latitude pings from [Denzel's] cell
phone" which led to the recovery of the unoccupied
vehicle in Cleveland, Ohio.
16} Denzel was eventually brought into the police
station by his father. Det. Duffy testified that Denzel
provided an alibi and indicated that he had previously
reported the vehicle as stolen. However, after Denzel was
released, Det. Duffy investigated Denzel's alibi and
determined that his statements were false. Accordingly, Det.
Duffy issued a warrant for Denzel's arrest.
17} When Denzel was arrested several days later, he
provided a second written statement to Det. Duffy,
implicating Rai'Shoun Morris and Morris as the two men
who robbed the jewelry store. Following Denzel's arrest,
Det. Duffy obtained a search warrant to conduct a forensic
examination of Denzel's cell phone. In addition, Det.
Duffy used information provided by Denzel to locate a cell
phone behind Denzel's home that was "believed to be
[Morris's] phone." Det. Duffy testified that he also
obtained a warrant to have Morris's cell phone manually
18} At that point, Det. Duffy was able to see the
text message and call records from Denzel and Morris's
personal cell phones. Det. Duffy testified that the phone
records corroborated Denzel's statement that he had
conversations with Morris leading up to the robbery. Relevant
to this appeal, the following text messages were exchanged
between Denzel and Morris:
DENZEL: gotchu [May 21, 2017 at 10:49 a.m.]
MORRIS: Ima bless you. You tryna drive me to hit this lick on
Monday? [May 21, ...