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State v. Charity

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Mahoning

December 11, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
EARL L. CHARITY III, Defendant-Appellant.

          Criminal Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas of Mahoning County, Ohio Case No. 18 CR 672 A

         JUDGMENT: Affirmed.

          Paul Gains, Mahoning County Prosecutor, Atty. Ralph Rivera, Assistant Prosecutor, for Plaintiff-Appellee

          Lynn Maro, Maro & Schoenike Co., for Defendant-Appellant.

          BEFORE: Gene Donofrio, Carol Ann Robb, David A. D'Apolito, Judges.

          OPINION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

          DONOFRIO, J.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant, Earl Charity, III, appeals his conviction following a guilty plea in the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court for one count of aggravated murder.

         {¶2} On July 19, 2018, a Mahoning County Grand Jury indicted appellant and Juan Phillips on numerous charges surrounding the death of Oscar Caywood. Appellant was indicted for: one count of aggravated murder in violation of R.C. 2903.01(B), an unspecified felony; one count of murder in violation of R.C. 2903.02(A), an unspecified felony; one count of aggravated robbery in violation of R.C. 2911.01 (A)(3), a first-degree felony; and ten counts of having a weapon under disability, each count specifying a different firearm appellant allegedly possessed, in violation of R.C. 2923.13(A)(3), third-degree felonies. Appellant was also indicted on three firearm specifications pursuant to R.C. 2941.145 and three repeat violent offender specifications pursuant to R.C. 2929.01.

         {¶3} Appellant reached a plea agreement with plaintiff-appellee, the State of Ohio. Appellant agreed to plead guilty to aggravated murder and its firearm specification. In exchange, the state dismissed all remaining charges and specifications and agreed to recommend a sentence of 23 years to life imprisonment.

         {¶4} On December 4, 2018, the trial court held a change of plea hearing. The trial court performed the plea colloquy. (Plea Tr. 3-11). During the plea colloquy, appellant informed the trial court that he was on parole for involuntary manslaughter and felonious assault. (Plea Tr. 7). The trial court informed appellant that pleading guilty to aggravated murder would be a violation of his parole and any punishment the adult parole authority ordered would be served consecutive to the sentence the trial court issued for aggravated murder. (Plea Tr. 7-8). Appellant stated that he understood the rights he was waiving by pleading guilty and his potential maximum sentence. (Plea Tr. 3-11). The trial court accepted appellant's guilty plea and scheduled the sentencing hearing for December 10, 2018.

         {¶5} At the scheduled sentencing hearing, appellant's counsel made an oral motion to withdraw the guilty plea. (Sent. Tr. 2). A written motion was not filed because counsel was only made aware of appellant's desire to withdraw the plea approximately 30 minutes before the sentencing hearing. (Sent Tr. 3). Appellant addressed the court himself and made two arguments in support of withdrawing his plea.

         {¶6} First, appellant argued that his plea should be withdrawn because he was not fully aware of the potential increased prison time he faced due to his parole violation when he pled guilty. (Sent. Tr. 4-7). Appellant originally believed his parole violation would result in a nine-month increase of his sentence but later learned that it would result in a 42-month increase of his sentence. (Sent. Tr. 4). The trial court noted that it informed appellant at his change of plea hearing that a guilty plea in this case would result in a parole violation and the sentence for the parole violation would be served consecutive to the sentence in this case. (Sent. Tr. 7).

         {¶7} Second, appellant argued that he was in possession of evidence that would support his defense if he went to trial. (Sent. Tr. 8). Appellant then conferred with his counsel off the record. After that conference, appellant's counsel informed the trial court that appellant called Detective Lambert of the Youngstown Police Department, the detective who investigated Caywood's death, the day before the sentencing hearing. (Sent. Tr. 9). Appellant claimed that he told Detective Lambert that someone else had murdered Caywood. (Sent Tr. 9). Appellant's counsel was unaware of this phone call prior to the sentencing hearing. (Sent. Tr. 9).

         {¶8} The trial court permitted the state to summarize the evidence it would have presented had the matter gone to trial. (Sent. Tr. 10-13). The trial court then granted a recess to permit the state and appellant to contact Detective Lambert. (Sent. Tr. 14-15).

         {¶9} The state and appellant's counsel managed to contact Detective Lambert by phone. Detective Lambert confirmed that he received a call from appellant the day before the sentencing hearing. (Sent. Tr. 15). But Detective Lambert would not speak to appellant on the basis that appellant was represented by counsel. (Sent. Tr. 16).

         {¶10} Appellant's counsel then informed the trial court that appellant had given him "a piece of paper with some information on it that [appellant] believes is the identity of the person that committed the crime." (Sent Tr. 18). Appellant's counsel then requested a recess of the sentencing hearing in order to investigate the information appellant had provided. (Sent. Tr. 18). The trial court denied the recess. (Sent. Tr. 18).

         {¶11} The trial court then addressed several factors concerning appellant's motion and concluded there was not a sufficient basis to allow appellant to withdraw his plea. (Sent. Tr. 19-35). The trial court then sentenced appellant to the agreed upon sentence of 23 years to life imprisonment. (Sent. Tr. 51).

         {¶12} Appellant's sentence was memorialized in a judgment entry dated December 14, 2018. Appellant timely filed this appeal on January 2, 2019. ...


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