State v. Svoboda

Decision Date01 December 2021
Docket NumberC-190753,NOS. C-190752,S. C-190752
Parties STATE of Ohio, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Scott SVOBODA, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtOhio Court of Appeals

David P. Fornshell, Warren County Prosecuting Attorney, and Kiersten A. Brandt, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Special Prosecutor, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Bryan R. Perkins, Cincinnati, for Defendant-Appellant.


Crouse, Judge.

{¶1} In January 2018, defendant-appellant Scott Svoboda was indicted in the case numbered B-1800423 ("B423") for three counts of rape, two counts of sexual battery, and two counts of gross sexual imposition. In August 2018, he was indicted in the case numbered B-1804429 ("B429") for two counts of rape and two counts of gross sexual imposition. All charges relate to the sexual abuse of his minor stepdaughter, A.S., over a ten-year period. After a jury trial, Svoboda was convicted of all counts. He has appealed, raising 15 assignments of error for our review. We overrule all assignments of error and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Factual Background

{¶2} Debra Svoboda is A.S.’s mother. A.S. is Debra's child from a previous relationship. J.S. is Svoboda's child from a previous relationship. After Debra and Svoboda married, they had I.S. and L.S. together.

{¶3} A.S. testified that Svoboda started sexually abusing her when she was six years old and the family was living on Glenhurst Place, in Hamilton County, Ohio. She testified that the abuse was "constant," and he touched the outside and inside of her vagina at least 60 times at that house. She testified that one time she tried to fight back and he hit her and knocked the wind out of her, so she learned not to fight back.

{¶4} The family moved to Cardiff Avenue when A.S. was nine years old. A.S. claimed the sexual abuse escalated at that location. She testified that Svoboda started to put his mouth and his tongue on the outside and inside of her vagina. The abuse was routine and would happen in her room and on the couch. A.S. estimated that Svoboda performed cunnilingus on her at least 80 times while the family lived on Cardiff Avenue.

{¶5} The family moved to Forest Road when A.S. was ten years old. A.S. testified that the abuse continued to escalate. Svoboda would remove his pants, but keep his boxers on, and would "cuddle" with her, try to put his penis between her legs, and would make her rub his penis until he ejaculated. She testified that the cunnilingus abuse continued as well.

{¶6} When A.S. was 12 years old, the family moved to a house on Forest Lake Drive. A.S. testified that the abuse escalated to anal rape at this address. She recalled an event where she was in her room watching a Star Wars movie that Svoboda had recently purchased for her, and, while she lay on her stomach, Svoboda put his penis into her anus.

{¶7} A.S. testified that when she was 12 years old, her stepbrother J.S. told Svoboda that she had been "flashing" boys. A.S. denied it, but Svoboda became angry with her and called her a "slut." A.S. testified that the hypocrisy of that statement made her so angry she told her mother about the abuse. Debra did not get angry like A.S. thought she would. A.S. testified that Svoboda grabbed her by the shoulders and told her, like he had in the past, that if she ever told anyone about the abuse again he would ruin her life, her siblings’ lives, and her mother's life. A.S. then told Debra that she had lied about the abuse.

{¶8} A.S. testified that shortly after her recantation, Debra walked in on Svoboda abusing her. A.S. was trying on a bathing suit in her room when Svoboda came in and began to perform cunnilingus on her. A.S. testified that after Debra walked in, she "bolted" out of the room. Svoboda chased after her. She testified that Debra came back into her room and yelled at her for wearing a bathing suit in the house.

{¶9} The family moved to Wanninger Lane when A.S. was 16 years old. A.S. testified that at this location Svoboda digitally penetrated her, performed cunnilingus on her, and touched her breasts on multiple occasions. She identified three separate places in the home where he would perform cunnilingus on her—in her room, in Svoboda and Debra's room, and on the couch in the living room.

{¶10} On January 14, 2018, A.S. was texting Svoboda while she was at work. The text conversation concerned A.S. being prevented from going on a ski trip due to poor grades. Svoboda had told her that she could go, but then texted her to tell her that Debra had decided she was still grounded and could not go. Svoboda offered to talk to Debra about getting the punishment lifted. A.S. testified that Svoboda had done this kind of thing before—manipulate Debra to get A.S. in trouble and then offer to help A.S. get out of trouble if she had sex with him. A.S. testified that she became angry with Svoboda's abuse and the control he had over her life.

{¶11} In response to Svoboda's offer to help get her out of trouble, A.S. texted, "or yes, ‘talking.’ As you're trying to get into my pants, I think you should try again with mom." A.S. testified that she put "talking" in quotes because "talking" was code for Svoboda having sex with her. The text conversation continued:

Svoboda: Whoa [A.S.]!
A.S.: Yep.
Svoboda: That's taking it too far. I wasn't even going there, dude.
A.S.: You should talk to mom again.
Svoboda: I don't understand why I am getting crapped on. All I'm trying to do is give you what you want, and you're talking about wrecking homes and shit ...
A.S.: No. You wrecked a home. All of my anger stems from you and your stupid decisions. And I think because of that you should be willing to help.
Svoboda: I've been offering to help the whole time you've been grounded and never brought up talking about anything. I've tried and tried, and you said no a dozen times. Didn't mean to upset you at work or make you mad. I even offered to let you do stuff even when I told J-man no. How is that not trying to help you?
A.S.: I'm still grounded. Don't sorry kiddo me. And don't try to act like the good guy. Talk to mom again.
Svoboda: I will but don't expect things to change. She is pretty set on proving a point about your grades. I can say sorry because I didn't ground you guys, nor did I make the decision that you can't go. But I'm the bad guy.
A.S.: You molested me. Yes, you're the bad guys [sic].

{¶12} After that message, A.S. disclosed the abuse to her manager at work. A.S.’s boyfriend A.W. came to her work and she told him about the abuse. A.W. took A.S. to see her aunt and uncle, Chris and Sarah Nesbitt, and A.S. told them about the abuse. They then took A.S. to the police station. She was interviewed by detectives and they took pictures of her text conversation with Svoboda, which were admitted as state's exhibits six A-E.

{¶13} During the time she was at the police station, Svoboda sent a series of messages to which A.S. did not respond because she had turned her phone off. Detectives asked A.S. to continue her text conversation with Svoboda in an effort to obtain incriminating evidence. After she turned her phone back on, the following messages came through:

Svoboda: I will talk to her and see what I can do. Stop talking about all this and getting upset
Svoboda: You also promised you'd never say anything and look at it now
Svoboda: You're right. I shouldn't have offered to help. I take it back and I'm sorry.
Svoboda: Who got you in driving school? Who takes you driving?
Svoboda: Since I'm the bad guy I will stop all of it
Svoboda: Please let me know when you will be off. I still would like to have you do some night driving, if that's okay with you ...
Svoboda: Hey, I think you can go Friday. I wish you would've let us know you were going with Sarah
Svoboda: I did exactly what you told me to [A.S.]. I hope this isn't going to be trouble, babe
A.S. responded: Do you really think night driving is going to make up for the last ten years?
Svoboda: That's not the implication I was making
Svoboda: I'm doing exactly what you told me to. I really didn't mean to upset you over this and I'm really sorry I did
A.S.: Are you even sorry for taking advantage of me for years?
Svoboda: You don't know how sorry I am
Svoboda: That's why I wasn't even bringing that up today ... seriously, I wasn't ... you flipped on me and brought it al [sic] up. I asked if you wanted help, I never said if you want to talk about it ... I wasn't trying to hurt you [A.S.]
A.S.: I flipped because you took advantage of me. How could you do that to me
Svoboda: I wasn't even going there [A.S.]. I never meant to hurt you and I don't want to keep upsetting you. You should enjoy your time with Sarah. I'm sorry I upset you and hurt you. I promise that I am
A.S.: I cry myself to sleep at night.
Svoboda: [A.S.] please understand that I don't want you upset. I'm so sorry for hurting you or upsetting you in any way Svoboda: I told you a while ago never again on any of that and I thought you understood. I didn't mean to bring any of this up today and it's certainly not what I was asking of you. I just wanted an idea as to how to get you what you wanted to do on Friday night. I didn't mean for you to get upset and all this to come up
A.S.: I told you to stop touching me years ago but you didn't, when will it stop
Svoboda: It is stopped. I promise. Please [A.S.], calm down and don't be upset. I want you to enjoy your time with Sarah and not be thinking about all this
Svoboda: You knew that. I didn't even bring it up.

{¶14} According to state's exhibit five, the report which extracted the text messages from A.S.’s cell phone, Svoboda sent two additional messages.

Svoboda: I don't even know why we are still talking about it or why you're saying all this. I'm sorry if I upset you especially today when you were at work. I really don't want you upset or hurting. Please [A.S.] ...
Svoboda: Hey, sorry to bug you. I wanted you to know that I do try to make up for anything I did wrong. We live in Anderson

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1 cases
  • State v. Colonel
    • United States
    • Ohio Court of Appeals
    • October 25, 2023
    ... ... testimony "which bolsters a child's credibility ... insofar as it supports the prosecution's efforts to prove ... that a child has been abused." (Emphasis sic.) ... Stowers, 81 Ohio St.3d at 262. "Bolstering is ... permitted, vouching is not." State v. Svoboda, ... 2021-Ohio-4197, 180 N.E.3d 1277, ¶ 93-94 (1st Dist.) ... (expert's testimony was permissible bolstering where she ... explained why behaviors like delayed disclosure and ... recantation occur in child sexual abuse cases); State v ... Mincey, 2023-Ohio-472, 208 N.E.3d 1043, ¶ 46-47 ... ...

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