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State v. Kister

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Athens

August 27, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
CHAD KISTER, Defendant-Appellant.

          Lisa A. Eliason, Athens City Law Director, and Jessica L. Branner, Athens City Prosecutor, Athens, Ohio, for Appellee.

          Timothy Young, Ohio Public Defender, and Allen M. Vender, Assistant Ohio Public Defender, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellant.



         {¶1} This is an appeal from an Athens Municipal Court judgment entry convicting Chad Kister of aggravated menacing, obstructing official business, and abuse of the 911 system. Because we overrule Appellant's assignments of error, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.


         {¶2} The State charged Appellant with aggravated menacing under RC. 2903.21, obstructing official business under R.C. 2921.31, and abuse of the 911 system under R.C. 128.32(F). The trial court appointed an assistant public defender to represent Appellant. Subsequently, however, the trial court permitted Appellant's counsel to withdraw, and then appointed "advisory counsel" to Appellant, who represented himself pro se through the trial. The trial court ordered Appellant to have a mental examination to consider his competency. After Appellant was deemed competent, the case went to trial.

         {¶3} In its opening statement, the State contended the evidence would show that Appellant made thirty 911 calls over a period of five hours even though there was no ongoing emergency. The State further asserted that Appellant became so upset that the Sheriffs Office would not respond to the 911 calls, he verbally threatened to kill two dispatchers. Finally, the State asserted that when deputies arrived to take Appellant for a mental examination, he made it difficult for the deputies to get him to the cruiser to the degree that they eventually had to carry him.

         {¶4} Appellant, in his opening statement, asserted that he owned a hostel and one of his guests, Ryan Caywood, physically assaulted and injured him. He testified that the Nelsonville Police removed Caywood, but he later returned and that's why he called 911, claiming it was "a life or death issue."

         {¶5} The State's first witness, Captain Brain Cooper, was a deputy with the Athens County Sheriffs Office. He testified that on November 12, 2017, the Sheriffs Office received a call of a possible ongoing assault. Captain Cooper further testified that because all the deputies were busy, the Sheriffs Office asked for the Nelsonville Police to respond. Captain Cooper testified that the Nelsonville Police had indicated that Appellant and Caywood each alleged being assaulted by the other, but the police declined to file charges because there was insufficient evidence to charge either of them. Captain Cooper testified that the Nelsonville Police removed Caywood from Appellant's premises and dropped him off near Nelsonville.

         {¶6} Captain Cooper testified that Appellant contacted the Sheriffs Office several times later that day asking why Caywood was not charged. Captain Cooper testified that Appellant sent a video to the Sheriffs Office that purportedly showed Caywood's assault of Appellant, but he testified that the video had been altered. He further testified that he informed Appellant that until he received the entire video, the investigation would go no further.

         {¶7} The State's next witness, Michele Hutchison, was a dispatcher for Athens County Emergency Communications Center. Hutchinson testified that part of her job is answering 911 calls. Hutchinson testified that the office received approximately thirty 911 calls from Appellant on November 12, 2017. She testified that at times Appellant was calling 911 from multiple phone numbers at the same time with up to three dispatchers answering his calls simultaneously. Hutchison explained that a true emergency is considered a life threatening situation and occasionally one involving property. Hutchison testified that the 911 calls from Appellant that day were in her opinion not emergencies because the person, who was the purported threat, was across the street from Appellant. Hutchison testified that as the day went on Appellant became "more agitated, more aggressive" during his calls. Hutchison further testified that Appellant was using expletives and he threatened "that [she] would be executed with the rest of them." In all his previous 911 calls Appellant had never threatened her. Hutchison testified that because of Appellant's behavior she filed a formal complaint with her boss.

         {¶8} On cross examination, Appellant asked if Hutchison could understand why he continued to call because Caywood had assaulted him and then returned to Appellant's property. Hutchison responded that during the 911 call Appellant stated that Caywood "was across the road." When Appellant asked Hutchison if she though he was in fear of his safety when he called, she responded "No."

         {¶9} The State's next witness, Adam Kasler, was a deputy sheriff with the Athens County Sheriffs office. On November 12, 2017 at 4:00 p.m., Deputy Kasler was dispatched to Appellant's house because of what was believed to be a scream from a woman who called 911 and then hung up. Deputy Kasler testified that when he arrived he encountered Appellant who related that he was very unhappy with how the Sheriffs Office had handled a call from him earlier in the day. Deputy Kasler testified that he told Appellant that he should have raised those concerns with the deputy who responded to that call. Deputy Kasler testified that once it was evident there was no emergency, he resumed his patrol.

         {¶10} The State's next witness, Stacy Stalder, was a dispatcher who works for Athens County 911 Call Center. Stalder testified that she received a call from Appellant on November 12, 2017 at 3:17 p.m. asking for a portable x-ray unit, but not emergency services, claiming that he had been assaulted earlier in the day. Stalder testified that she informed him that they did not have portable x-ray units. Stalder testified that she received another call later that day from Appellant who was screaming and yelling because he wanted someone to respond, but deputies had responded earlier. Stalder confirmed that Appellant made about thirty 911 calls that day. Stalder testified that during those calls Appellant threatened to kill her if she did not kill Ryan Caywood. Stalder testified that at no time during his calls did Appellant claim that he was being assaulted or harmed in anyway. Stalder testified that when she had dealt with Appellant before he was never as distraught as he was on November 12, 2017, and it scared her. She testified as a consequence she filed a formal complaint with her boss.

         {¶11} The State's next witness, James Heater, was the shift lieutenant for the Athens County Sheriffs Department. Lieutenant Heater testified dispatchers referred Appellant's calls to him to determine if there was an active emergency. He testified that Appellant called at least several times in the evening of November 12, 2017, but none were deemed to be an emergency. Lieutenant Heater testified that eventually he reached the point where he decided to file charges against Appellant for his excessive calls and threats. He conferred with Captain Cooper by phone and dispatched deputies to charge Appellant and to take him into custody for a physical and mental evaluation at a hospital, called a "blue slip," which is permitted by R.C. 5122.10. Lieutenant Heater determined that Appellant needed the evaluation pursuant to Crisis Intervention Training, which provides methods to deescalate situations.

         {¶12} Lieutenant Heater testified that he and Deputy McCollister arrived and informed Appellant that he was going to be taken into custody for a mental examination because of all the 911 calls he had been making that day. Lieutenant Heater testified that Appellant threw himself onto the ground, went limp, and closed his eyes. Lieutenant Heater testified that he was concerned Appellant was going to hit his head on an exposed brick so he requested Appellant to get up, but Appellant refused. Lieutenant Heater testified that he used a pressure point maneuver to make Appellant stand up and then Deputies Kasler and McCollister handcuffed Appellant. Lieutenant Heater testified that Appellant continued to try to throw himself on the ground until eventually the two deputies had to pick him up and carry him in the cruiser.

         {¶13} The State's final witness was Donald McCollister, a deputy with the Athens County Sheriffs Office. Deputy McCollister explained that there are four options for issuing a "blue slip" (mental evaluation): (1) the person is suicidal, (2) the person is homicidal, (3) the person is not caring for themselves, and (4) the person would benefit from mental treatment. Deputy McCollister testified that in making out the blue slip for Appellant, he marked boxes 2 (homicidal) and 4 (would benefit from mental treatment) because of the threats Appellant made to the dispatchers.

         {¶14} Deputy McCollister testified that the Sheriffs Office is only capable of taking four 911 calls at a time, so when Appellant was making multiple 911 calls at once it was possible that others trying to reach 911 at that time could not get immediate help.[1]

         {¶15} After the deputies took Appellant into custody, the Sheriffs Office charged him with misuse of the 911 system for tying up the system with non-emergency calls, aggravated menacing for threatening the dispatchers, and obstruction of official business for impeding the deputies' attempts to take Appellant into custody for the mental exam The State then rested its case.

         {¶16} Appellant testified on his own behalf. He asserted that Ryan Caywood was a guest in his hostel on November 11, 2017. Appellant testified that early on November 12th he noticed from his video surveillance equipment that Caywood was agitated, so Appellant decided to talk to him. He testified that Caywood admitted he was mentally unstable, and that he was not sure what to do with Caywood. He then testified that about noon he was leaving when Caywood broke through Appellant's fence and cornered Appellant in a courtyard. And, he testified that he tried unsuccessfully to push Caywood out of the way, and then attempted to throw water on him, which resulted in Caywood assaulting Appellant, breaking several bones. The jury apparently watched some video provided by Appellant that purported to show Caywood's assault of Appellant.

         {¶17} Appellant testified that he called 911 and the Nelsonville Police arrived. He testified that the police took Caywood from his property about 12:00 p.m. and told him not to return. He testified that Caywood returned about 3:00 p.m. However, Appellant testified that he left and remained across the street.

         {¶18} Appellant testified that Caywood told Appellant he was going to kill him. He called 911 and deputies came, but Caywood was nowhere in sight at the time. He went on to say that after the deputies left, he saw Caywood on his surveillance systems several times. Appellant began calling 911 again and yelling at dispatchers because he was afraid Caywood was going to kill him, not to threaten the dispatchers.

         {¶19} On cross examination, Appellant admitted that he had never received a medical diagnosis of any broken bones. He also admitted that he was the ...

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