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City of Columbus v. Flowers

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

December 17, 2019

City of Columbus, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Lawrence L. Flowers, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL from the Franklin County Municipal Court No. 19TRD-136296

         On brief:

          Zach Klein, City Attorney, and Orley Ahroni, for appellee.

         On brief:

          Lawrence L. Flowers, pro se.

          DECISION

          SADLER, J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Lawrence L. Flowers, appeals from the June 11, 2019 judgment entry of the Franklin County Municipal Court finding appellant guilty of violating a city of Columbus traffic law. For the following reasons, we affirm the trial court judgment.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         {¶ 2} A complaint issued on May 16, 2019 alleged appellant violated Columbus Traffic Code 2131.18(A), a "right of way-stop sign" traffic offense, on East Deshler Avenue at Wilson Avenue in Columbus at approximately 5:30 p.m. (Compl. at 1.) The complaint indicated the conditions included dry pavement, clear visibility, light traffic in a residential area, and no adverse weather, and the incident involved a non-injury crash.

         {¶ 3} On May 23, 2019, appellant entered a not guilty plea. On the same day, appellant filed, pro se, a motion to dismiss the traffic ticket, citing Traf.R. 1(A) and (B) and 11(A) and (B). In his motion, appellant asserted that, while stopped at the stop sign, appellant believed he had gained the right-of-way because the driver of other car involved in the incident had pulled over and was talking to someone. Appellant contended an officer, "Truall Jared," despite being informed by appellant of witnesses, issued appellant the ticket without "investigating * * * probable prospective information that could assist the court in making a fairer determination." (May 23, 2019 Mot. at 1, 3.) Appellant concluded the narrative set forth in the crash report is therefore void of any available witness information at the crash site, leaving appellant with the "insurmountable task of overcoming the presumption of the stop sign." (May 23, 2019 Mot. at 4.) As grounds for granting the motion to dismiss, appellant states the "Ticket and CRASH REPORT * * * deprives [appellant] of a broader 'Totality of Circumstances' that could provide the court With a better opportunity to weigh [appellant's] claim to the right of way on Wilson Ave. and, does not well serve the construct of Ohio TRAFFIC RULES, rule 1(A) and (B)." (Emphasis sic.) (May 23, 2019 Mot. at 4.) Appellant included photographs of his own vehicle, a red van, with the motion.

         {¶ 4} On May 24, 2019, the trial court issued a notice to appellant that the case was "scheduled for a court trial before [a judge] on * * * June 11, 2019." (May 24, 2019 Notice at 1.) On May 29, 2019, subpoenas were issued to Columbus Division of Police Officer Kenneth Kropp[1] and to the other individual involved in the crash, Alvin Brown, Jr. The cause came for trial before a judge on June 11, 2019. Appellant appeared pro se.

         {¶ 5} At the outset of the trial, the judge and appellant discussed the motion to dismiss. The judge asked appellant on what grounds he brought the motion to dismiss, and appellant replied, "[u]nder the circumstances, the way this is applied, I won't have [a] chance of getting a fair trial." (Tr. at 3.) When the judge inquired as to why he believed this, appellant stated "[b]ecause it's just me against the stop sign and someone who said I ran it." (Tr. at 3.) The judge asked "why that is not okay" and stated that appellant "still ha[d] not told the Court any grounds, legal grounds, to dismiss [the] case." (Tr. at 3.) Appellant reiterated "[b]ecause I won't be able to get a fair trial * * * under the circumstances, I don't believe that the statute was constitutionally applied. * * * How can I get a fair trial if I can't get * * * testimony from the people that [were] gathered all around?" (Tr. at 3.) The judge responded that if appellant would like a witness to appear at trial, then it is incumbent on appellant to get them to court and indicated appellant could subpoena witnesses. After discussing plea offers, appellant stated he wished to have a trial that day and inquired whether the judge was denying the motion to dismiss. The trial court confirmed it was denying the motion to dismiss, and appellant agreed he was ready to go forward with trial.

         {¶ 6} Plaintiff-appellee, City of Columbus, called Alvin Brown, Jr., the driver of the other car involved in the crash, as a witness. According to Brown:

I was proceeding south on Wilson, headed to work at 5:30 p.m. I had to be at work at 6. I live right around the corner. I was not really going fast. I was proceeding south on Wilson. He was coming, going east on Deshler. Stop sign. He didn't yield to me coming across Wilson, and I hit him on the side. And he ended upon on the right side of Deshler, across Wilson.

(Tr. at 8.) Brown confirmed that appellant had a stop sign but did not yield the right of way, while Brown did not have a stop sign. Brown further testified police were called to the scene, he spoke to an officer, and the officer made a report.

         {¶ 7} On cross-examination, appellant asked Brown how many people were around when officers arrived, and Brown testified there were two to three kids, a man who pulled up to the scene to see if everyone was okay, and people who "came to see what was going on." (Tr. at 11.) Brown was not looking at the porches to know if additional people were there. Brown denied being in a rush to get to work and stated he did not know anyone on Wilson. Regarding how far back Brown was when he saw appellant's van, Brown testified that "[w]hen I saw the van is when I struck you." (Tr. at 12.) The following exchange then occurred:

[Appellant:] Did the officer ask you that you waived the right of way to me?
[Brown:] Did I waive the right of way?
[Appellant:] Did the officer ask you ...

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