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City of Cleveland v. Johnson

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

August 15, 2019

CITY OF CLEVELAND, Plaintiff-Appellee,
JOHN JOHNSON, Defendant-Appellant.

          Criminal Appeal from the Cleveland Municipal Court Case No. 2018-CRB-010412


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

          Patrick S. Lavelle, for appellant.



         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, John Johnson, appeals from the trial court's judgment finding him guilty of domestic violence. Finding no merit to the appeal, we affirm.

         I. Background

         {¶ 2} Johnson was charged in a two-count complaint. Count 1 charged domestic violence in violation of R.C. 2919.25, a first-degree misdemeanor. Count 2 charged unlawful restraint in violation of Cleveland Codified Ordinances 621.08, a third-degree misdemeanor. Johnson pleaded not guilty and the case proceeded to a bench trial.

         {¶ 3} Cleveland Police Officer Ashley Graham testified that on June 26, 2018, she received a priority call regarding domestic violence at 4661 East 173rd Street. The dispatcher reported that a female had been assaulted and was having a seizure. Graham said that the police respond with urgency to priority calls to determine whether there is an immediate threat, where the suspect is, and whether medical attention is needed for the victim.

         {¶ 4} Graham testified that the police responded to a park near the East 173rd address because dispatch advised that the female victim had left the home and was at the park. Graham said that when they arrived at the park, the victim, who was "clearly upset" and "distraught," exited an SUV and told them she had called the police because she had been assaulted by Johnson. Graham testified that the police interviewed the victim to assess the situation. They learned that the victim and Johnson had a child together. Graham said the victim told them that Johnson was still at her house, "tearing [it] up," and she wanted him gone "before he destroyed her house." Graham testified that the victim was also concerned that Johnson would still be at the home when her other children returned home. Officer Graham testified that in light of what the victim told her, she called a supervisor, who responded to the house.

         {¶ 5} Officer Graham testified that after interviewing the victim, she and her partner went to the house on East 173rd Street, where they found Johnson in the living room of the home. Johnson told them that he had called the police because he wanted their assistance with removing the living room furniture from the house; he said he had receipts to prove he had purchased the furniture. Graham testified that Johnson made no mention of any assault until after he was detained in the police car, when he said that he and the victim had gotten into a struggle after the victim attacked him, and he had scratches on his chest and back.

         {¶ 6} Officer Graham testified that the police arrested Johnson after speaking with him and the victim and observing their injuries. Graham identified state's exhibit Nos. 3 and 4 as pictures the police took of the victim's injuries on June 26, 2018. The photographs revealed scratch marks and bruising on the victim's neck. Graham testified that Johnson admitted that the victim had scratched him, and that she (Graham) observed scratches on Johnson's chest and back that were consistent with the victim's statement that she had scratched Johnson as she was trying to fight him off while he was holding her down.

         {¶ 7} Officer Graham testified that she has been a Cleveland police officer for five years, and that she handles four to five priority domestic violence calls each week. She said that she receives specialty training every year regarding handling domestic violence cases, and that in light of her training and experience, she concluded that the woman she spoke with in the park was a victim of domestic violence.

         {¶ 8} Officer Graham testified that she was wearing a body camera on June 26, 2018, and that state's exhibit No. 1, the video from her body camera, accurately reflected her interactions with the victim and Johnson that day. The prosecutor then made an oral motion to admit the video. The trial court admitted the video over defense counsel's objection, finding that the victim's statements were made to assist the police with ...

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