State v. Carter

[Cite as State v. Carter, 2020-Ohio-589.] IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF OHIO TENTH APPELLATE DISTRICT State of Ohio, : Plaintiff-Appellant, : No. 18AP-948 v. : (C.P.C. No. 17CR-5405) Armon D. Carter, : (REGULAR CALENDAR) Defendant-Appellee. : D E C I S I O N Rendered on February 20, 2020 On brief: Ron O'Brien, Prosecuting Attorney, and Seth L. Gilbert, for appellant. Argued: Seth L. Gilbert On brief: John P. Rutan, for appellee. Argued: John P. Rutan. APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas BRUNNER, J. {¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant, State of Ohio, appeals a judgment entered by the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on December 4, 2018, suppressing the evidence against defendant-appellee, Armon D. Carter, because it was obtained as a result of an unconstitutional stop. Conducting a deferential review of the trial court's factual findings, we do not find that it clearly erred in determining that the officers blocked in Carter with their cruiser before developing reasonable suspicion sufficient to justify detaining him. We affirm the judgment of the trial court and overrule the State's sole assignment of error. I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL POSTURE {¶ 2} A Franklin County Grand Jury indicted Carter on October 4, 2017 for improper handling of firearms in a motor vehicle, carrying a concealed weapon, and a fifth- degree felony count for possession of less than five grams of cocaine with a firearm specification. (Oct. 4, 2017 Indictment at 1-2.) Carter pled "not guilty" and filed a motion No. 18AP-948 2 to suppress the evidence. (Oct. 18, 2017 Plea Form; May 4, 2018 Mot. to Suppress.) The State responded in opposition and the trial court held a hearing on the matter on August 14, 2018. (May 18, 2018 Memo. Contra; Hearing Tr., filed Jan. 22, 2019.) {¶ 3} At the hearing, two officers of the Columbus Division of Police testified. Officer Nikolaos Velalis testified first. (Hearing Tr. at 6.) He testified that he was in uniform in a marked cruiser working with his partner, Officer Kevin Stewart, on March 23, 2017. Id. at 7. Stewart's testimony corroborated these basic facts. Id. at 62-63. At approximately 9:10 p.m. on that evening, he and Stewart patrolled Cooper Park in their vehicle. At that time of night and season of the year, Cooper Park is not well lit and is sometimes used for clandestine activities. Id. at 8. Exhibits and testimony introduced at the hearing showed that the parking lot for Cooper Park consists of a single north-south lane with parking spaces arrayed perpendicularly on both sides of the lane. Id. at 10-11; Court's Exs. 1-2. Though the lane continues to the north of the lot, the lane dead-ends some way further along at some soccer fields. (Hearing Tr. at 11.) Carter was parked nose-in, occupying the northwest-most parking space so that both the front and passenger sides of his car were bordered by curbs. Id. at 25-26, 65; Def. Ex. A.1 The car's engine was turned off and not showing any lights or ...

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