Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Fairfield
Criminal appeal from the Fairfield County Court of Common
Pleas, Case No. 2018CR377
Plaintiff-Appellant KYLE WITT Fairfield County Prosecutor
Defendant-Appellee ANDREW SANDERSON Burkett & Sanderson,
JUDGES: Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. William B. Hoffman, J.
Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, J.
Defendant-appellant Jason Chafin ["Chafin"] appeals
his conviction and sentence after a bench trial in the
Fairfield County Court of Common Pleas.
and Procedural History
On June 10, 2018, 15-year-old L.L. went to work in the
morning at a Lancaster, Ohio restaurant. L.L. had a
disagreement with her supervisor and left work. L.L. could
not reach her family and had no ride home. As L.L. walked
home a Jimmy John's delivery driver, whom she did not
know, offered her a ride. The delivery driver, Chafin, told
L.L. he had to make a delivery prior to dropping her off near
her home. L.L. agreed and got into Chafin's red Honda
As Chafin and L.L. rode toward the delivery drop off, Chafin
told her his name was Jason, asked how old she was, and
inquired if anyone knew that she was walking home alone.
After making the delivery in the Dominion Homes subdivision,
L.L. recognized that Chafin was driving in the opposite
direction from which they had entered the subdivision. L.L.
became fearful. After Chafin pulled away from the delivery
location and the car was in motion, Chafin asked L.L. if she
"liked to flirt." Chafin told L.L. that she was
pretty. After telling L.L. she was pretty, Chafin firmly
grasped L.L.'s hand causing her to jerk her hand away to
break his grip. (1T. at 103-105). L. L. demanded that Chafin stop
and pulled her hand away from his hand. (1T. 102, 106). When
Chafin made no attempt to stop, L.L. jumped from the car.
(1T. 106, 107). L.L. suffered scratches to the palms of her
hand when she caught herself after the jump. L.L. testified
that the car never slowed down even after she jumped from the
car. (1T. 114). In fact, L.L. testified that the car sped off
after she had jumped. (1T. at 115). L.L. recalled that she
had observed a car seat, stickers and items affiliated with
Jimmy John's on Chafin and displayed on the car. (1T.
Tracy Wentz, a resident of a subdivision built by Dominion
Homes known as "River Valley Highlands," had
contact with a neighbor of hers that is hard of hearing. The
neighbor brought L.L. over to Wentz's residence due to
the communication difficulties. Wentz observed that L.L. had
been sobbing and was breathing heavily. L.L. explained she
had taken a ride from a delivery driver who had offered to
give her a ride home. Instead, during a delivery in
Wentz's neighborhood, the driver had touched L.L. and
said things to her that caused L.L. to flee his car. Wentz
sat with L.L. on her porch until LL's father arrived to
pick her up.
LL's father, C. S. arrived at Wentz's home. Earlier
that day C.S. had dropped L.L. off to work in the morning.
When C.S. picked up L.L., he learned that a male Jimmy
John's delivery driver had scared his daughter and she
jumped from the car. C.S. immediately drove to the Jimmy
John's location where he asked about the delivery driver
and waited in front of the store. C.S., who is a large man,
admitted he was angry but never saw any male delivery driver
pulled into the location while he waited for police. The
demeanor of C.S. caused the employees of Jimmy John's to
Breanna Richardson was the Jimmy John's assistant manager
on duty on June 10, 2018 and was working with Chafin.
Richardson encountered C.S. who arrived at the store and made
a threat to the delivery driver in the red car. Richardson
called both Lori Wood and Chafin after C.S. arrived. Lori
Wood is Chafin's mother. Jimmy John's also employed
her on the date of the incident. Richardson told Chafin to
park out back when he arrived and to call her so she could
let him in the back of the Jimmy John's. Chafin inquired
what was wrong and Richardson told him, "Don't worry
about it." Richardson also called Wood and told her to
come in to work early as she would need a driver and that the
problem had something to do with Chafin. Richardson did not
recall telling Wood any details regarding the allegations in
her phone call to Wood. Richardson did not tell Chafin to
remove or alter his Jimmy John's work uniform or to park
his car in a different location.
Valerie Gould was the general manager of the Jimmy John's
restaurant and was involved in the process of hiring Chafin.
During the hiring process, Gould ensured that Chafin knew he
must wear Jimmy John's approved hat and shirt during
working hours and that his delivery vehicle was required to
display the Jimmy John's sign. The Jimmy John's
driver policy banned drivers from picking up any passenger.
Gould confirmed that Jimmy John's employs an order
tracking system and that during the shift of Chafin on June
10, 2018 he made two separate deliveries to a location of
2602 Two Ridge Avenue in the Dominion Homes subdivision.
Gould explained that Chafin remained employed with Jimmy
John's after June 10, 2018 and had explained the
situation to her as a "misunderstanding."
Lori Wood, Chafin's mother, confirmed that she had
received a phone call from Richardson on June 10, 2018. Wood
confirmed she, her son Chafin, and a daughter were all
employed at Jimmy John's. Wood also confirmed that on the
date of alleged offense Chafin had told her not to worry
because he had, "done nothing wrong." (1T. 208).
Wood was also questioned if she had any later conversations
with her son about the events during a recorded call with
Detective Underwood. Specifically, within the call Wood
reported Chafin told her, "He said he had offered her a
ride. He told her that he had to make a delivery. She said
that was fine. He made his deliver. He was on his way out of
the housing complex and she said she didn't feel
comfortable. And he said to give him a minute. He was pulling
over to let her out and she tried to get out. And he
didn't want her to get hurt, so he tried to stop her from
jumping out right before he stopped. And she got out and he
came back - he went on about his - went back to the store,
got his delivery. He made his delivery to the mall, and then
I called him and stopped him from going to Crestview."
(1T. 223-224). Although the context of the question from
Detective Underwood was, "Did you talk with Jason
again?" Wood asserted at trial she had received some of
the information from another son, Kelly, who is a Morgan
County Sherriff's deputy. (1T. at 243).
On June 10, 2018 at approximately 12:21 p.m., Officer David
Thompson of the Lancaster Police Department responded to a
dispatch for the Jimmy John's restaurant at 1804 Memorial
Drive. He contacted L.L. and her father outside in front of
the store. Officer Thompson learned that L.L. was alleging
something had occurred between her and a male Jimmy
John's delivery driver. Officer Thompson observed that
L.L. was visibly shaken and had a slight injury to her hand.
Officer Thompson entered the Jimmy John's storefront
looking for a male employee but seeing no males made contact
with two female employees. Officer Thompson learned that C.S.
had previously entered the Jimmy John's and as a result,
the female employees had called the male delivery driver on
duty to return to the store.
When back up officers arrived, Officer Thompson walked behind
the store to see if he could locate the delivery vehicle
described; but did not see the vehicle. Officer Thompson
later found that the male delivery driver, Chafin, had
returned and contacted him in the rear Jimmy John's
parking lot. Upon Officer Thompson's initial contact,
Chafin was found sitting in a black Jeep not fitting the
description of the delivery vehicle and not wearing any
clothing identifying him as a Jimmy John's employee.
Officer Thompson later located Chafin's red Honda Civic
parked in the back lot of a Burger King restaurant in close
proximity to the Jimmy John's restaurant. Thompson noted
numerous things about the interior of the red Civic that
matched the description of the vehicle given by L.L. such as
a distinctive sticker and a baby seat. Although Officer
Thompson did not initially know of any familial connections
at the Jimmy John's, he was able to later determine that
Chafin's mother and sister were also employed at Jimmy
John's and had spoken with Chafin as he sat in the black
Jeep behind Jimmy John's. Officer Thompson would later
arrange to have the red Honda Civic towed and was surprised
to find that the red Honda had been moved from behind the
nearby Burger King to the back lot of Jimmy John's.
Chafin's mother, Lori Wood had possession of the car
keys. Police had not requested that anyone move the vehicle.
The red Honda was impounded with all contents left inside.
Officer Thompson additionally canvassed nearby locations of
other potential witnesses and obtained the morning delivery
receipts made from Jimmy John's.
After the police identified Chafin as the delivery driver, he
remained with Officer Andrew Bennett, the second officer
responding to the scene. Officer Bennett learned from Jimmy
John's staff that Chafin was sitting in the parking lot
behind the restaurant. Officer Bennett was wearing an AXON
body camera that captured much of his conversation and
interaction with Chafin. (1T. 296). Officer Bennett's
interactions with Chafin were played during trial and made
part of the record as State's Exhibit 11.
During the video clip, Chafin can be observed sitting in a
black Jeep and is wearing nothing identifying him as a Jimmy
John's delivery driver. Chafin, who appears upset and
agitated, states several times that he had not picked up
anyone in his delivery car that day. Specifically, Chafin
makes statements on the video such as: "I don't know
this person"; "I've never met this
person."; 'Nothing happened."; "I will be
countering."; "It's one word against another.
I've prosecuted several cases myself"; "There
is no evidence." and, "There's no way to prove
it. It's one against another."
At around eight minutes into the video clip, Chafin's
mother, Lori Wood approaches Chafin and Officer Bennett. Wood
inquires of Officer Bennett if the witness (L.L.) has
identified Chafin or his car. Officer Bennett responds he
does not have that level of information, to which, Chafin
responds, "Nothing happened."
Chafin never suggests that LL. was ever inside his vehicle.
The closest Chafin came to acknowledging he gave anyone a
ride on June 10, 2018 is in the form of a hypothetical he
poses to Officer Bennett. Chafin asks, "Hypothetically,
say I did give her a ride it's still one person's
word against another. There is no proof of ...