Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
Criminal Appeal from the Cleveland Municipal Court Case No.
17 CRB 020763
AFFIRMED IN PART, VACATED IN PART, AND REMANDED
Barbara A. Langhenry, City of Cleveland Law Director, and J.
Jeffrey Holland and Danamarie K. Pannella, Assistant
Prosecuting Attorneys, for appellee.
A. Stanton, Cuyahoga County Public Defender, and Cullen
Sweeney, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
MICHELLE J. SHEEHAN, JUDGE
1} Defendant-appellant Scott R. Turner ("Turner")
appeals from his conviction and sentence imposed by the
Cleveland Municipal Court. Following a bench trial, Turner
was found guilty of one count of sexual conduct with an
animal (bestiality) in violation of RC. 959.21(B). The court
sentenced Turner to 90 days in jail, with credit for 17 days
served, and a $750 fine. The court suspended the fine and 73
days in jail, pending completion of five years of inactive
community control. Conditions of community control included
(1) no contact with animals; and (2) random home inspections
conducted by the Animal Protective League ("APL").
For the reasons that follow, we affirm the conviction.
However, we vacate the sentence in part and remand for
further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
History and Substantive Facts
2} Scott Turner was a parolee under the supervision of Jason
Stasenko, parole supervisor for the sex offender unit of the
adult parole authority. On May 25, 2017, Stasenko received
from Hamilton County prison officials a sexually explicit
letter detailing a sexual act with an animal. The letter that
was intercepted by prison officials was written by Turner and
mailed to Turner's incarcerated boyfriend, Robert
Mayberry, who was in prison on charges relating to sexual
conduct against minors. The next day, Stasenko arrested
Turner for violation of his parole. During an investigation,
officers discovered additional letters at Turner's home.
On September 21, 2017, the city charged Turner with
bestiality in violation of R.C. 959.21(B).
3} Defendant filed a motion in limine to prohibit the
introduction of his extrajudicial statement (made through the
initial letter to his boyfriend) absent proof of the offense.
The trial court denied Turner's motion, and the matter
proceeded to a bench trial.
4} The city presented the testimony of the parole supervisor,
Stasenko, and the owner of the animal victim, Valerie
Lightner. The city also admitted into evidence three letters
written by Turner.
5} Stasenko identified all three letters admitted at trial as
letters written by Turner. He testified that the city's
exhibit No. 1 was the letter the Hamilton County parole
authority intercepted and forwarded to Stasenko, and the
other two letters, exhibit Nos. 2 and 3, were letters that
were confiscated at Turner's home at the time of the
No. 1 Dated 5-13-17 and 5-15-17
6} Exhibit No. 1 is a 20-page letter Turner wrote to his
boyfriend, Mayberry. It is dated "5-13-17," with a
noted time of "7:17 p.m." The letter contained
sexually explicit language with graphic descriptions of
sexual acts involving Turner, Mayberry, and a dog:
Hey baby girl [addressing Mayberry], I'm sitting here
just thinking of you and wondering what you may be doing. * *
* Jovan (my roommate in case you forgot) brought his girl dog
over for a bit today and him and his girl went to eat so I
ate to[o] and I enjoyed it to[o]. I never knew it could taste
so f***ing good baby. Damn I want to do that again but with
you f***ing me while I do. Boys are next at the first
opportunity I get if I do. It was a 2-year-old boxer and
something else but not sure what.
7} On page 15 in that same letter, which portion is dated
"5-15-17" and noted with a time of "6:45
p.m.," Turner once again mentioned an animal:
I love when you give details and talk super dirty to[o]
describing the sex you want with our little friends with 4
legs and also how we will do them together my love.
Exhibit No. 2 Dated 5-6-17
8} Exhibit No. 2 is a letter from Turner to Mayberry that
predates exhibit No. 1 and is dated "5-6-17, 2:00 p.m. -
8:30 p.m." In this sexually explicit letter, Turner
stated his intention to acquire an animal:
I'll be sure to make it worth your while for sure. * * *
I'm looking into getting a 4/legged friend still but
it's hard to find the right one to get and then
there's the money needed to get it also which I don't
have either yet. I have to take care of you baby girl * * *.
Exhibit No. 3, Undated
9} Exhibit No. 3, an undated sexually explicit letter,
One other thing babe. I don't want to share you with
another guy. Kay. I need to know if you still want to do that
okay. I'll share you with a 4/legged friend though.
I'm really looking forward to experiencing that baby
girl. I'm sure it will be exciting to have your d*** in
my mouth while I'm being pounded out by a friend and to
watch you get pounded to with my d*** in your mouth * * *
also videoing the sounds * * * and the f***ing between us so
I can watch them over and over, babe. You can too okay. * * *
How would you like to have a young guy (teen) video us
together? That is if you want to do any videoing at all.
10} Stasenko testified that he spoke with Turner about
exhibit No. 1. Turner admitted writing the letter but denied
that any sex act with an animal occurred. According to
Stasenko, Turner explained that he only wrote the information
about the dog to distract his boyfriend from being sexually
interested in boys. Stasenko did not find this explanation
credible, and in fact, he stated that Turner's
explanation was inconsistent with Turner's explicit
references in the letters to engaging children in sexual
conduct. Stasenko also testified that he was troubled by
Turner's nickname for his penis, referring to it as
Lightner, Dog Owner
11} Valerie Lightner testified concerning her dog, a
two-year-old female possible pit bull boxer mix named Athena.
She owned the dog since it was nine weeks old. Lightner's
boyfriend, Jovan Johnson, rented a room from the defendant.
Lightner testified that on May 13, 2017, she drove to the
defendant's house, with her dog, to pick up her
boyfriend. She stated that it was her boyfriend's
birthday and she was picking him up to buy him a birthday
present, a skateboard. She was going to leave Athena in her
boyfriend's bedroom for a couple of hours while they went
out to purchase the skateboard. They would then pick the dog
up and go to the skate park. Lightner stated that Turner
offered to watch Athena while they were gone, so she agreed.
12} Lightner testified that when they returned after about
two hours to pick up Athena, the dog ran straight to Lightner
and her boyfriend and cowered by them, which was very
unusual. Lightner stated that Athena is usually
"excited, jumping, happy to see you, happy that everyone
is together [because] she really likes people so she likes
being together with them." But on this afternoon,
according to Lightner, her dog seemed scared. Lightner
testified that Turner told her the dog "just laid down
with him in bed for the duration of the time that we were
13} Lightner and her boyfriend put Athena in the car and
drove to the skate park as planned. However, while at the
park, Athena was acting unusual and again cowering behind
Lightner, was skittish, and was barking. Because of the
dog's unusual behavior, Lightner and her boyfriend
brought Athena home after only 20 minutes at the park. They
later canceled dinner reservations because the dog continued
acting strangely, whining and licking her genitals
excessively. Athena continued to "aggressively"
lick her genitals and remained skittish around noises for
several days. At the time of trial, she remained
uncomfortable with anyone near her backside. In fact, as
Lightner testified, Athena now required special care during a
veterinarian examination, because she "whimpers when
someone is trying to insert [a rectal thermometer] and will
try to scoot away from them." Lightner testified that
all of this behavior was highly unusual of Athena, and prior
to the incident in May, Athena "had no issues with
boundaries with people" and never had a problem with a
rectal thermometer being used on her.
14} Finally, Lightner testified that she did not seek
treatment for Athena after the incident because "[i]t
didn't seem like it was a life or death situation at the
moment" and the dog's behavior began to improve
after a few days. She also stated that the costs for sedating
Athena for an examination was part of the reason she did not
seek treatment. Lightner first became aware of a possible
issue with the defendant when Stasenko contacted her.
Lightner said she never would have suspected that something
like this would have happened.
15} At the conclusion of the evidence, defense counsel
renewed his objection to the admission of the exhibits,
arguing the state presented insufficient independent evidence
of corpus delicti. Defense counsel also moved the court for a
Crim.R. 29 dismissal. The court denied both motions and found
Turner guilty of the offense charged.
16} Turner appealed his conviction and sentence, assigning
four errors for our review, which we will discuss out of
order for ease of discussion:
I. There was insufficient evidence to permit a reasonable
trier of fact to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Scott
Turner violated R.C. 959.21(B).
II. Scott Turner's conviction is against the manifest
weight of the evidence.
III. The trial court erred and violated Scott Turner's
due process rights by admitting Turner's extrajudicial
statements into evidence without the prosecution having first
established the "corpus delicti" of the crime.
IV. The trial court erred and violated Scott Turner's due
process rights by granting a private non-profit entity the
right to conduct random, suspicionless searches of
Turner's private residence for five years.
17} In his third assignment of error, Turner contends that
the court erred in admitting his extrajudicial statements
without independent evidence of a crime. In support, he
argues that the city failed to establish the ...