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City of Cleveland v. Perkins

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

August 15, 2019

CITY OF CLEVELAND, Plaintiff-Appellee,
CHRISTOPHER R. PERKINS, Defendant-Appellant.

          Criminal Appeal from the Cleveland Municipal Court Case No. 2018 CRB 004102


          Barbara Langhenry, Director of Law, City of Cleveland, Karrie D. Howard, Chief Prosecutor, and Marco A Tanudra, Assistant City Prosecutor, for appellee.

          Milton A. Kramer Law Clinic, Carmen Naso and Andrew Geronimo, attorneys, and Matthew Logan O'Connor, certified legal intern, for appellant.



         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Christopher R. Perkins ("Perkins"), appeals his petty theft and assault convictions. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

         {¶ 2} Perkins's convictions arise out of a March 2018 incident when Perkins allegedly struck Lenise Winters ("Winters") in his apartment and kept Winters's car keys. Perkins was charged on March 19, 2018, with unlawful restraint, petty theft, and assault. Perkins waived his right to a jury trial, and in August 2018, the matter proceeded to a bench trial.

         {¶3} The city of Cleveland's ("City") witnesses included the victim -Winters - and Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority ("CMHA") Police Officer Raja Fattah ("Officer Fattah"). Winters testified that she and Perkins had been friends for four and one-half years and in a relationship for three years. Winters lived with Perkins in his apartment. Perkins's girlfriend at the time of trial, Lapeaches Scott ("Scott"), also lived in the apartment for a period of time while Winters lived there as well. Perkins wanted a sexual relationship with both Scott and Winters, but Winters was not interested.

         {¶ 4} Winters further testified that at the time of the incident, on March 18, 2018, she and Perkins were still a couple. On that night, there was a dispute between Winters, Perkins, and Scott. According to Winters, March 16, 2018, was the last night she slept in Perkins's apartment. The next day, Perkins told Winters that Scott needed help moving. Perkins did not tell Winters where Scott was moving. At that time, Scott had been sleeping on the couch in Perkins's apartment for about a week.

         {¶ 5} On March 17, 2018, Winters spent the night at her daughter's house. She was picked up by the paramedics at her daughter's and taken to the emergency room. She was discharged from the emergency room on March 18, 2018, and was uncertain as to whether she was going back to her daughter's house or to Perkins's apartment. Winters testified Perkins invited her to his apartment, while she was talking to him on the phone, to party with "a whole lot of people." She testified that Diana Smith ("Smith"), a mutual acquaintance of Winters and Perkins, was at Perkins's apartment at the time and helped Winters get out of the car and get into the building. Scott was also at the apartment at the time. Winters testified that Perkins was the only person who had keys to his apartment.

         {¶ 6} When she entered the apartment, Winters sat down in the kitchen and Perkins began to question Winters and Smith about his suspicion that Winters engaged in oral sex with another male in the apartment two nights earlier. Winters and Smith denied the allegations. The next thing she knew, Perkins snatched the chair from underneath her, threw her onto the floor, and started hitting her, wanting to know the name of the other man. Smith helped her off the ground. Perkins then faced Smith and began to swing the chair at her. She asked Perkins if she could pass Winters her cane.[1]

         {¶ 7} As Winters got to the apartment doorway, Perkins pushed her down. She testified that Perkins knocked her down and said, "naw, b****. You don't have no driving restrictions. [Your] driving restrictions been - been revoked" while ripping Winters's key out of her hand and into his hands. She then scooted into the hallway, and she and Smith ran into a neighbor's and called 911. Winters testified that she had not yet retrieved her car keys. Winters further testified that her back was bruised after the incident. She did not seek medical treatment that day, but sought medical treatment at some point after the incident because "everything [was] just out of whack."

         {¶ 8} Officer Fattah testified that he responded to a disturbance call on a CMHA property. He spoke with Perkins in his apartment. He testified that Perkins answered the door willingly. Perkins was a little intoxicated and sweating profusely. He asked Perkins what happened, and Perkins stated that he wanted Winters to leave because he had another female in the apartment. He also told Officer Fattah that he had been with Winters for some time and they shared a home at one point. He did not admit to any physical altercation between him and Winters other than that he pushed her out of the apartment. Officer Fattah further testified that he found marijuana in the apartment and Perkins admitted to drinking. He did not notice anyone else in the apartment at the time and stayed with Perkins the entire time while other officers spoke with Winters.

         {¶ 9} Scott and Perkins testified on behalf of the defense. Perkins testified that he broke up with Winters two or three days prior to the incident and all of Winters's belongings were removed from his apartment. Perkins denied ever inviting Winters to his apartment on March 18, 2018. Perkins testified that Smith was in the apartment helping Scott move in and left a couple minutes before Winters entered his apartment. He asked Winters what she wanted and then asked her to leave three different times. He testified that Winters became angry because of Scott's presence in the apartment and the matter turned physical when Winters struck Scott, causing her ear to bleed. Perkins got between them and ultimately "pushed her" out his apartment. Perkins was unable to call the police because his phone battery was dead. According to Perkins, the entire incident lasted approximately 10-15 minutes. Perkins testified the police only found some marijuana in the apartment. Perkins further testified the police searched his apartment and did not find Winters's keys.

         {¶ 10} Scott testified that she is Perkins's girlfriend. No one else was living with Perkins when she moved into his apartment on March 18, 2018. Scott testified that Winters was upset when she arrived because Scott was there. Winters tried to get physical with Scott and then Perkins asked her to leave. Scott testified that neither she nor Perkins put their hands on Winters. Winters hit her, which caused her ear to bleed.

         {¶ 11} After the conclusion of trial, the court found Perkins not guilty of unlawful restraint but guilty of assault and petty theft. Perkins was sentenced to 180 days in jail, suspending 175 days and crediting him with 5 days served, and a $150 fine. Perkins was placed on 2 years of active probation, the DIET program, and 100 hours of community service.

         {¶ 12} Perkins now appeals, raising the following two assignments of error for review.

         Assignment ...

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