State v. Scoggins, Case No. 16CA3767

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
Writing for the CourtHoover, J.
Citation2017 Ohio 8989
PartiesSTATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. RONALD SCOGGINS, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberCase No. 16CA3767
Decision Date08 December 2017

2017 Ohio 8989

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
RONALD SCOGGINS, Defendant-Appellant.

Case No. 16CA3767


December 8, 2017



John Rutan, Columbus, Ohio, for appellant.

Mark E. Kuhn, Scioto County Prosecuting Attorney, and Jay Willis, Scioto County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Portsmouth, Ohio, for appellee.

Hoover, J.

{¶1} Defendant-appellant, Ronald Scoggins ("Scoggins"), appeals his convictions and sentence for numerous drug related charges as well as one count of endangering children after a search of a vehicle under his possession and control revealed several active one-pot methamphetamine labs as well as additional materials used to produce methamphetamine. The Scioto County Common Pleas Court denied Scoggins's motion to suppress the evidence found as a result of the search; and Scoggins was subsequently found guilty, following a jury trial, of the charged offenses. Scoggins was sentenced to a total aggregate sentence of 22 years imprisonment, with 19 years being mandatory.

{¶2} Because we determine that the trial court properly denied Scoggins's motion to suppress, and that Scoggins's remaining assignments of error pertaining to his convictions and sentence are also without merit, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. However, our own

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review of the record reveals errors in two of the jury verdict forms and in the sentencing entry constituting plain error; thus under App.R. 9(E) we instruct the trial court to issue a nunc pro tunc sentencing entry correcting the errors described more thoroughly in this decision.

I. Facts and Procedural History1

{¶3} This case arose after officers from the Southern Ohio Drug Task Force and Scioto County Common Pleas Adult Probation Department conducted a probation home check at a property in Scioto County. Upon arriving to the property, the officers located a running vehicle in the driveway. Inside the vehicle, in open view of the officers, was an active one-pot methamphetamine lab. A more thorough search of the vehicle revealed a tool bag, which contained two more active one-pot methamphetamine labs, two spent one-pot methamphetamine labs, and various materials commonly used to produce methamphetamine. The vehicle, which was unoccupied at the time of the officers' arrival, contained Scoggins's driver's license and a cell phone associated with Scoggins. Several individuals, including a minor child, were inside a house on the property. Scoggins, however, was not located at the house or anywhere else on the property.

{¶4} On May 12, 2015, Scoggins was indicted on four counts: aggravated trafficking of methamphetamine in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A)(2) and R.C. 2925.03(C)(1)(f), a first degree felony; aggravated possession of drugs/methamphetamine in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A) and R.C. 2925.11(C)(1)(e), a first degree felony; illegal manufacture of drugs/methamphetamine in the vicinity of a juvenile in violation of R.C. 2925.04(A) and R.C. 2925.04(C)(3)(a), a second degree felony; and illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs/methamphetamine in the vicinity of a juvenile in violation of R.C. 2925.041(A) and R.C.

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2925.041(C), a second degree felony. Scoggins pleaded not guilty to the charges. On May 23, 2016, Scoggins filed a motion to suppress the evidence seized as a result of the search of the vehicle. After a hearing on the motion to suppress, the trial court overruled the motion.

{¶5} Following the trial court's denial of the motion to suppress, but approximately a month before the commencement of the scheduled trial, the State filed a superseding indictment. The superseding indictment added that the aggravated trafficking of methamphetamine charge was committed in the vicinity of a juvenile, and added a count of endangering children in violation of R.C. 2919.22(B)(6) and R.C. 2919.22(E)(3), a third degree felony.

{¶6} Scoggins was tried before a jury on August 22 and 23, 2016. At the conclusion of trial Scoggins was convicted of all the indicted charges. The jury also determined that the drugs were equal to or exceeded 5 times the bulk amount and were less than 50 times the bulk amount, and that the aggravated trafficking of methamphetamine, illegal manufacture of drugs/methamphetamine, and the illegal assembly offenses were committed in the vicinity of a juvenile. At sentencing, the trial court merged the aggravated trafficking and aggravated possession counts with the illegal manufacture count. The trial court sentenced Scoggins to 11 years incarceration on the illegal manufacture count2, 8 years on the illegal assembly count, and 36 months on the endangering children count, to be served consecutively for a total aggregate sentence of 22 years imprisonment with 19 years being mandatory.

{¶7} Shortly thereafter, a sentencing entry was journalized and Scoggins then filed a timely notice of appeal.

II. Assignments of Error

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{¶8} Scoggins assigns the following errors for our review:

First Assignment of Error:

The Trial Court Erred By Denying Appellant's Motion to Suppress.

Second Assignment of Error:

The Appellant's 6th Amendment Right To Fair And Impartial Jury Was Violated.

Third Assignment of Error:

The Trial Court Abused It's Discretion And Committed Prejudicial Error In The Handling Of Numerous Criminal Rule 16 Violations Committed By The State By Not Excluding The Testimony Of James Cunningham And Payton Scott.

Fourth Assignment of Error:

The Trial Court Erred By Not Granting A Mistrial After Payton's Prejudicial Statement And Prejudicial Questions By The Prosecutor.

Fifth Assignment of Error:

There Was Insufficient Evidence To Support Appellants Conviction For Count 1, Aggravated Possession, Count 2 Aggravated Trafficking Of Drugs And Count 5 Endangering Children.

Sixth Assignment of Error:

Appellant's Conviction For Count 3 Illegal Manufacturing Of Drugs And The Enhancements For Counts 1, 3 and 4 Was Against The Manifest Weight Of The Evidence.

Seventh Assignment of Error:

The Trial Court Erred In Failing To Merge Appellants Sentences.

Eighth Assignment of Error:

The Trial Court Erred In Failing To Merge The Sentences of Child Endangerment With the Elevated Felonies.

Ninth Assignment of Error:

The Trial Court Abused Its Discretion In Sentencing The Appellant To A Near Maximum Prison Term And In Imposing Consecutive Terms.

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III. Law and Analysis
A. First Assignment of Error: Motion to Suppress

{¶9} In his first assignment of error, Scoggins contends that the trial court erred in overruling his motion to suppress evidence.

{¶10} Appellate review of a motion to suppress presents a mixed question of law and fact. State v. Gurley, 2015-Ohio-5361, 54 N.E.3d 768, ¶ 16 (4th Dist.), citing State v. Roberts, 110 Ohio St.3d 71, 2006-Ohio-3665, 850 N.E.2d 1168, ¶ 100. At a suppression hearing, the trial court acts as the trier of fact and is in the best position to resolve factual questions and evaluate witness credibility. Id.; State v. Burnside, 100 Ohio St.3d 152, 2003-Ohio-5372, 797 N.E.2d 71, ¶ 8. Thus, when reviewing a ruling on a motion to suppress, we defer to the trial court's findings of fact if they are supported by competent, credible evidence. Gurley at ¶ 16, citing State v. Landrum, 137 Ohio App.3d 718, 722, 739 N.E.2d 1159 (4th Dist.2000). However, "[a]ccepting those facts as true, we must independently determine whether the trial court reached the correct legal conclusion in analyzing the facts of the case." Id., citing Roberts at ¶ 100.

{¶11} At the suppression hearing, Detective Lee Bower of the Southern Ohio Drug Task Force testified that he responded to the Charles Wooten residence in McDermott, Ohio, to assist other officers from the task force and officers from the Scioto County Common Pleas Adult Probation Department. The purpose of the visit was to conduct a home visit on probationer Payton Scott, who was residing at the Wooten residence.3 It had been reported that Scott was abusing drugs at the residence, that methamphetamine was being produced at the residence, and that anhydrous ammonia might be present at the residence. Detective Bower indicated that upon

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arriving to the residence and looking for probationer Scott he observed a vehicle in the driveway that was locked and running, but that contained no driver or passengers. Detective Bower testified that he looked into the window of the vehicle and observed a one-pot methamphetamine lab that was cooking in the center console of the vehicle. Detective Bower then approached the residence and spoke to Wooten. According to Detective Bower, Wooten told him that the vehicle belonged to Scoggins, and that Scoggins had just run away from the residence. Scott and a minor child were also present in the residence, and according to Detective Bower's testimony, Scott also indicated that a person named "Ronnie" had just run out the door.

{¶12} Detective Bower testified that the fire department was called to the scene due to the high risk of fire and explosion, and to break the driver's side window to ventilate the vehicle. Detective Bower testified that trained agents from the drug task force dressed in protective equipment and began processing the scene. Once the one-pot lab was neutralized, a search of the vehicle was conducted. According to Detective Bower two more active one-pot methamphetamine labs, and two spent one-pot labs were discovered in a tool bag in the back seat of the vehicle. In addition, Scoggins's driver license and cell phone were also found in the vehicle.

{¶13} Paula Breech, Scoggins's girlfriend, also testified at the suppression hearing. Breech testified that she is the titled owner of the vehicle, but that she regularly allows Scoggins to use the vehicle. Breech testified that Scoggins was driving the vehicle on the day that it was searched.

{¶14} Scoggins argues that the search of the vehicle was unlawful because it was conducted...

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