We find that the state presented substantial evidence supporting each element of the charge.
State v. Deanda
2021 – Ohio 3774
Sixth District Appellate Court
Fulton County, Ohio
October 22, 2021
J.D. is Mr. Aaron Deanda’s wife. At all times relevant to this appeal, she and Mr. Deanda resided together in Wauseon, Fulton County, Ohio.
On Thursday December 19, 2019, J.D. went to bed on the living room floor of their residence. She declined to sleep in the bedroom with Mr. Deanda because he had been exhibiting “odd” behavior. Twice prior to the underlying incident, Mr. Deanda woke up and began screaming for J.D. She went to the bedroom to check on him and each time she found Mr. Deanda claiming that he needed assistance because he felt something was preventing him from getting up.
The third time Mr. Deanda woke up, he overcame the lethargy that prevented him from getting up earlier. He walked down the hallway to the living room where J.D. was sleeping. Mr. Deanda then picked up a belt and began threatening to break their television because J.D. would not have sex with him. As Mr. Deanda got “more and more agitated,” J.D. began recording a video of him with her phone. J.D. testified that while she was recording, she focused on the screen rather than Mr. Deanda. As the argument continued, Mr. Deanda moved towards her. Through her phone, J.D. saw Mr. Deanda foot strike the phone which then fell and struck her in the head. She did not suffer any bruising or lacerations where the phone hit her but the area was “tender” for “just a short period of time.”
After the phone struck her, J.D. got “extremely upset.” Mr. Deanda attempted to apologize. J.D. refuted his apology and said “fuck that” just before the video ended. J.D. testified she did not intentionally end the recording but that the stop button was inadvertently pressed during the altercation. Mr. Deanda and J.D. then continued to argue with J.D. asking Mr. Deanda to go back to bed. Eventually Mr. Deanda went back to bed and fell asleep. Following this portion of J.D.’s testimony, the cell phone video of the incident was admitted into evidence and played for the jury.
The day after the incident, J.D. showed the video to Mr. Deanda. He initially denied that the video was of him. Mr. Deanda then denied that it had happened the previous evening as he believed he had slept through the night. J.D. informed Mr. Deanda that it was indeed him and that he had been waking up in the night recently. Mr. Deanda said he did not recall waking up in the night at any time. Mr. Deanda then apologized to J.D. Despite his apology, J.D. testified that she remained “really angry.”
The following day, J.D. reported the incident to the Wauseon Police Department. She spoke with Officer Alan Donnett and showed him the video she had recorded. Officer Donnett then had J.D. prepare a written statement describing the incident. J.D. testified that she told Officer Donnett that she wanted to stop writing the statement part of the way through it but was instructed that it had to be completed. J.D. then completed the statement and the meeting concluded. Whether or not she was ‘directed’ to complete the statement would later become refuted.
When she went home, J.D. packed clothing and supplies for her and her children and went to stay with her mother. J.D. testified that she only reported the incident to the police so that Mr. Deanda could get assistance with what she believed were mental health issues. She did not want Mr. Deanda to be charged with a crime. Soon J.D. would learn of the statutory requirements of O.R.C. § 2919.25 – Domestic Violence.
J.D. then testified that she had reviewed the video again during a meeting with the prosecutor approximately one month prior to the trial. Following that review, J.D. concluded that Mr. Deanda had not intentionally kicked her but that he had stumbled while attempting to reach a remote control behind her and his foot fell into the phone. She based this conclusion on the fact that during this later review she heard Mr. Deanda say “sorry” after the incident which she did not hear on prior viewings. She now believes that Mr. Deanda merely fell because he is generally clumsy. Despite reaching this conclusion approximately one month before trial, J.D. did not contact Officer Donnett or the Wauseon Police Department to revise her original written statement. Donnett described J.D.’s demeanor as “extremely hesitant” and “scared because she was making a police report.” Officer Donnett explained that it was common for those reporting domestic violence to be hesitant because “it’s a big step” to report abuse to the police. Officer Donnett recalled that J.D. stated that she did not want to take that step. He offered her encouragement stating that any continued violence would not stop unless she made the report. He denied, however, pressuring J.D. to complete the statement and testified that he is prohibited from forcing any victim of domestic violence to complete a report.
Approximately three or four hours after their meeting, J.D. contacted the police department to inform them that Mr. Deanda had come home while she was packing. Officer Donnett traveled to the residence where he found Mr. Deanda standing outside. Officer Donnett briefly explained to Mr. Deanda that J.D. had reported the prior incident and asked Mr. Deanda for his version of events. Mr. Deanda stated that he and J.D. had a verbal argument but that it did not turn physical. Mr. Deanda did not state that he had lost his balance and fell onto J.D. during the incident. Officer Donnett advised Mr. Deanda that it would be best for him to leave while J.D. completed packing. Mr. Deanda agreed and left. Officer Donnett left a short time later.
On cross-examination, Officer Donnett stated that he did not observe that J.D. had suffered any physical injuries as a result of the incident. He also specified that when J.D. appeared hesitant to complete the written statement he told her that his mother had been a victim of domestic violence and that he appreciated that she had taken the step of reporting her abuser. He did not ask J.D. if her hesitation in filling out the written statement was related to her fear of reporting it or because she could not recall the details of the incident. He did, however, believe that her body language indicated she was afraid of what Mr. Deanda would do if he found out she had reported the incident.
Mr. Deanda was convicted at trial and he appealed his conviction to the Sixth District Appellate Court. Mr. Deanda argued that the trial court erred in denying his Crim.R. 29 motion for acquittal for domestic violence because the state failed to introduce sufficient evidence to support his conviction.
Mr. Deanda argues that because J.D. testified that she believed he struck her phone was an accident that the state failed to provide sufficient evidence that he acted knowingly. The video evidence belies such an argument. Mr. Deanda’s singular focus on J.D.’s testimony ignores the remaining evidence which supports the required mental state element as described above … “We find that the state presented substantial evidence supporting each element of the charge.”.
Information for this article was obtained from State v. Deanda, 2021 – Ohio – 3774.
The Sixth District Appellate Court issued this decision on October 22, 2021 and it is binding on the following Ohio Counties: Erie, Fulton, Huron, Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky, Williams and Wood.
- This case demonstrates the unfortunate fact pattern where a victim of domestic violence is hesitant to report abuse and then follow through. This type of case presents many challenges for law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and the criminal justice system as a whole. In this case Wauseon Police Officer Alan Donnett and the Fulton County prosecutor did outstanding work to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt. The victim, J.D., recanted her original statement and defended Mr. Deanda stating that he slipped because he is generally clumsy and that is why her phone got kicked into her head. Originally she said that Mr. Deanda kicked the phone intentionally. This type of victim waffling makes some domestic charges so challenging.
- When investigating domestic violence cases, the victim does not need sustain physical injuries to establish probable cause that an assault occurred. Though the court did not opine on this important fact, the victim, J.D., did not sustain physical injury. Nonetheless the court determined that an assault did occur. R.C. 2919.25 (A) states in pertinent part “No person shall knowingly cause or attempt to cause physical harm…”. Here Mr. Deanda ‘attempted’ to cause physical harm.
- The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections website lists Mr. Deanda serving a four-year sentence from 2011 to 2015 for felonious assault. See https://appgateway.drc.ohio.gov/OffenderSearch/Search/Details/A613218.
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