from Logan County Common Pleas Court Trial Court No. CR 18 12
P. Martin for Appellant
J. Warren for Appellee
Defendant-appellant, Steven A. Akers ("Akers"),
brings this appeal from the May 21, 2019, judgment of the
Logan County Common Pleas Court sentencing him to an
aggregate fifty-four month prison term after he was convicted
by a jury of two counts of Failure to Comply with an Order or
Signal of a Police Officer in violation of R.C.
2921.331(B)/(C)(5)(a)(ii), both felonies of the third degree.
On appeal, Akers argues that the trial court erred by failing
to grant a mistrial once the jury heard about Akers being
incarcerated, that the trial court failed to properly
investigate an instance wherein a juror potentially saw Akers
in handcuffs, and that Akers' convictions were allied
offenses of similar import and should have merged for the
purposes of sentencing.
At approximately 8:24 p.m. on November 9, 2018, Jerrod
Hostetler of the Bellefontaine City Police Department was on
patrol in a marked cruiser when he observed a yellow Chevy
truck without a working front license plate light. Officer
Hostetler pulled out behind the vehicle and ran the
registration, which came back to a "female who was
suspended out of Franklin County." (April 18, 2019, Tr.
Vol I. at 124). That female was Leah Akers, the wife of
Akers. Although they were still married, Leah and Akers were
separated at that time. Leah was living in Canal Winchester.
While following the yellow truck, Officer Hostetler observed
the driver run through a red light when making a left turn.
Officer Hostetler then activated his emergency lights to
initiate a traffic stop. At this time he did not activate the
siren, just the lights.
The driver of the vehicle turned onto a Walmart access road
and then into a gas station. Officer Hostetler thought that
the driver appeared to be a male and that the driver was
alone, but the officer was not certain.
The driver pulled through the gas station, then continued
slowly through the Walmart parking lot. As the driver
continued through the parking lot without stopping despite
the officer's emergency lights being activated, Officer
Hostetler radioed for assistance because he did not know what
the driver's "intentions [were] at that time."
(April 18, 2019, Tr. Vol. I at 128). Before leaving the
Walmart lot, Officer Hostetler activated his siren in
addition to his overhead lights.
When leaving the Walmart parking lot, the driver of the
yellow truck ran a stop sign. The driver then turned onto
Guntown Road and accelerated to over 53 or 54 mph in a 45 mph
The driver went through another stop sign and was moving out
of the city limits onto County Road 29. Officer Hostetler
radioed the officer in charge for permission to leave the
city and follow the truck, but permission was denied. Officer
Hostetler indicated that generally when they had pursuits
that were not related to felony crimes, the pursuits were
usually terminated. Officer Hostetler stated that they had
the license plate of the truck and intended to work backwards
in the investigation due to the traffic violations being
minor. Officer Hostetler then terminated his pursuit, and the
situation was relayed to the Logan County Sheriffs
Deputy Miriam Reames of the Logan County Sheriffs Department
was operating a patrol car with Deputy Adam Wood in the
passenger seat and they observed the flashing lights from
Officer Hostetler's cruiser when he was following the
yellow truck. They were approaching from another direction
and Deputy Reames drove toward the flashing lights to
investigate what was happening.
As Deputy Reames neared an intersection she observed the
Bellefontaine city police cruiser turn its overhead lights
off. Around that time, Deputy Reames and Deputy Wood were
notified that a Bellefontaine city police officer had been
following a yellow truck that was failing to comply and that
the officer following the truck had terminated his pursuit.
The deputies were advised to stop the yellow truck if they
Deputy Reames turned onto County Road 29 where the yellow
truck had gone, passing the Bellefontaine city police
cruiser. After driving for a mile or more the yellow truck
was located. The deputies opted to follow the truck to see if
they could acquire probable cause to make their own traffic
stop. They observed several lane violations by the driver of
the yellow truck, then they attempted to initiate a traffic
stop. The lights and the siren on the cruiser were activated,
but the yellow truck did not stop. In fact, the yellow truck
passed multiple vehicles in a no passing zone, and then went
south toward West Liberty.
The yellow truck also ran another stop sign at the
intersection of Highway 5 and Highway 1. Around that time
Deputy Wood radioed ahead to West Liberty for an officer to
deploy spike strips, but the officer from West Liberty was
unable to do so in time. Eventually the yellow truck
approached US68 just outside of West Liberty and ran a stop
sign there as well. As the truck turned onto US68, there was
an oncoming vehicle that the yellow truck failed to yield to
and the vehicle had to go off the right side of the road to
avoid a collision. Afterward, the yellow truck went
northbound on US68, returning towards Bellefontaine.
On the way toward Bellefontaine, the yellow truck began
picking up speed, exceeding 100 mph. When the truck passed a
semi, it ran an officer off the road who was traveling
southbound on US68.
The Bellefontaine City Police Department was made aware that
the yellow truck was returning to Bellefontaine, so they
attempted to deploy spike strips. However, they did not get
the strips set up in time before the yellow truck drove past
them into town at roughly 8:40 p.m.
Once back in Bellefontaine, the driver of the yellow truck
turned onto Guntown Road at a high rate of speed. It
eventually turned left on Ludlow. At that time, the
commanding officer for the deputy sheriffs advised them to
terminate their pursuit. The pursuit of the yellow truck
undertaken by the Logan County Sheriffs Department had
covered 13 or 14 miles.
Sometime prior to 8:50 p.m., Sara Perdue was outside with her
dog at the Red Bud Court apartment complex in Bellefontaine
when she saw a yellow truck approaching. Perdue observed a
man jump out of the truck while it was still moving. She saw
the man wipe his hands on the grass, then the man took off
running. Perdue did not get a good look at the man because it
was dark. Perdue asked if the man was 'okay,' but he
did not answer. Perdue went inside and called 9-1-1 because
she did not know whether someone was hurt. She was also
nervous because of the whole situation and did not know if
someone else was in the vehicle.
Numerous officers from different agencies responded to the
Red Bud Court apartments. The yellow truck was present, still
running, with its door open. Inside the truck, on the
driver's side floor, was a cell phone in a case. The case
also had a compartment for cards, and this compartment
contained an identification card for Akers, as well as
several other cards belonging to Akers.
Although law enforcement did not know at the time, Akers'
uncle lived at Red Bud Court apartments. Akers' uncle had
not seen Akers for a few months. However, around 9:30 p.m.
that evening, Akers' uncle walked into his kitchen and he
saw Akers sitting at his table.
Akers was not located by law enforcement that night. Law
enforcement did speak with Leah Akers in Canal Winchester,
who advised them that Akers had the yellow truck during their
The next morning, Akers called his sister and told her that
he could not locate his phone or his truck. His sister
suggested that Akers go to the police station if he thought
his truck was missing, and Akers ultimately did that, getting
a ride from his sister. At the police station, Akers spoke
with police and stated that he had dropped his truck off with
a friend who worked as a mechanic in Bellefontaine the night
before to have a window fixed. Akers stated he did not know
what happened to the truck after that. Akers also gave a
vague timeline of his whereabouts the evening prior.
Officers investigated Akers' claims and found them to be
untrue, particularly with regard to leaving the truck with
his friend/mechanic the night before. Akers was subsequently
indicted in this matter on December 11, 2018, for two counts
of Failure to Comply with an Order or Signal of a Police
Officer in violation of R.C. 2921.331(B)/(C)(5)(a)(ii), both
felonies of the third degree. There was one count for
Akers' failure to comply with the Bellefontaine City
Police Department and one count for Akers' subsequent
failure to comply with the Logan County Sheriffs Department.
Akers pled not guilty to the charges and proceeded to a jury
trial, which was held April 18-19, 2019. After the testimony
and evidence was presented, including dash camera video from
the Bellefontaine city police cruiser and the audio from the
interrogation of Akers, the jury found Akers guilty of both
counts against him.
On May 17, 2019, the matter proceeded to sentencing.
Akers' attorney argued that the two counts should merge
for sentencing, but the trial court disagreed, finding that
they were separate actions. The trial court then recited
Akers' extremely lengthy criminal history. Afterward the
trial court sentenced Akers to serve eighteen months in
prison on the first Failure to Comply conviction, and
thirty-six months in prison on the second Failure to Comply
conviction. The trial court reasoned that the second act was
far more egregious than the first. The trial court ordered
the prison terms to be served consecutively for an aggregate
fifty-four month prison term. A judgment entry memorializing
Akers' sentence was filed May 21, 2019. It is from this
judgment that Akers appeals, asserting the following
assignments of error for our review.
of Error No. 1
Trial Court failed [to] grant a mistrial once the jury
learned of the Defendant's incarceration status from the
State of Ohio's witness.