State v. James, C-210598

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
Writing for the CourtBERGERON, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Citation2022 Ohio 3244
PartiesSTATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ANTOINE JAMES, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberC-210598
Decision Date16 September 2022

2022-Ohio-3244

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.

ANTOINE JAMES, Defendant-Appellant.

No. C-210598

Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton

September 16, 2022


Criminal Appeal From: Hamilton County Municipal Court TRIAL NO. 21CRB-3166

Judgment Appealed From Is: Affirmed

Andrew W. Garth, City Solicitor, William T. Horsley, Chief Prosecuting Attorney, and Connor E. Wood, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Plaintiff-Appellee,

Raymond T. Faller, Hamilton County Public Defender, and Krista Gieske, Assistant Public Defender, for Defendant-Appellant.

OPINION

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BERGERON, PRESIDING JUDGE.

{¶1} Following a dispute about a game of cards, the trial court convicted defendant-appellant Antoine James of aggravated menacing. On appeal, he alleges a violation of his Confrontation Clause rights and insists that his conviction ran counter to the manifest weight of the evidence. However, the record at hand provides no basis for reversal, and we accordingly overrule his assignments of error and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

I.

{¶2} The facts giving rise to this case occurred on New Year's Day 2021, when Mr. James and his cousin, William Chappell, attended a family get-together at another cousin's house. The family gathered in the home to finish a keg of beer left over from an earlier gathering while watching some college football. Six of the family members, including Mr. Chappell and Mr. James, played a game of cards that ultimately turned the lighthearted celebration into a family feud.

{¶3} At some point during the card game, Mr. James became convinced that Mr. Chappell was cheating. The tension boiled over when Mr. James grabbed the pot of money from the middle of the table (that he believed rightfully belonged to him) and stormed toward the exit. Before he could leave, another cousin interceded and blocked his path. Mr. Chappell testified that while Mr. James and the other cousin tussled near the front door, he avoided the confrontation and instead went to the dining room to pour himself a beer from the keg. What happened next is a matter of some debate.

{¶4} In Mr. Chappell's version, as he poured himself a drink, Mr. James approached him from behind and pressed a firearm into Mr. Chappell's right side,

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announcing that "this is a robbery" and admonishing Mr. Chappell to hand over all his money. Unsatisfied by the $780 turned over by Mr. Chappell, Mr. James ordered him to surrender his wallet and disrobe. At this point, the owner of the home intervened and Mr. Chappell fled out the back door while Mr. James escaped through the front. Mr. Chappell claims that police were called and arrived on scene that night, although there is no record of any 9-1-1 call being made or of any police report being generated at the time of the incident.

{¶5} Defense witness Stephanie Chappell, Mr. James's mother, relayed a different version of what transpired. She testified that she attended the family gathering in question, and that Mr. Chappell and Mr. James became embroiled in a heated argument after Mr. James seized the pot of money from the table. Next, Mr. Chappell walked out to his vehicle and retrieved a firearm, which he brought back into the home. When he returned, he attempted to hand the gun to a different individual in a bid to escalate the altercation, but that person refused to take the weapon. Mr. James's mother insisted that, throughout the entire incident, Mr. James never had a firearm in his possession.

{¶6} Regardless, the next day, Mr. Chappell went to his local police department and filed charges against Mr. James for the robbery. The state charged Mr. James with aggravated menacing in violation of R.C. 2903.21, a first-degree misdemeanor. After a bench trial, the trial court returned a guilty verdict, finding Mr. Chappell's testimony convincing and credible. Mr. James now appeals, presenting two assignments of error.

{¶7} In his first assignment of error, Mr. James alleges that the trial court deprived him of his right to confront witnesses against him by limiting the scope of

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defense counsel's cross-examination of Mr. Chappell. In his second assignment of error, Mr. James calls the credibility of Mr. Chappell into question, framing this as a manifest-weight challenge.

II.

{¶8} In his first assignment of error, Mr. James claims that the trial court abused its discretion by limiting the scope of defense counsel's cross-examination of the prosecution witness. "The Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause precludes a trial court from placing 'improper restrictions' on defense cross-examination." State v. McAlpin, Slip Opinion No. 2022-Ohio-1567, ¶ 151. Mr. James argues that the trial court improperly prevented defense counsel from questioning Mr. Chappell about a felonious assault charge filed against him on the same day of Mr. James's aggravated-menacing offense. He maintains that questioning Mr. Chappell about his felonious assault charge was necessary to explore whether the state established the elements of aggravated menacing, as well as a proper method of impeaching Mr. Chappell under Evid.R. 611(B).

{¶9} At the heart of this...

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