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Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Man’s Concurrent Prison and Community Control Sentences on Separate Offenses Not Improper

A judge’s decision to send a man to prison with a concurrent, but longer, period of community-control on a separate offense was appropriate, except for requiring  his community-based confinement follow his prison time, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled today.

In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court reversed an Eighth District Court of Appeals decision that vacated a portion of Michael T. Paige’s sentence. Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor stated the high court did not accept the Eighth District’s conclusion that the longer community control sentence resulted in an improper “split sentence.”

Eleventh District Court of Appeals Judge Cynthia W. Rice sat for former Justice William M. O’Neill.

Sentence Based on Violent Interaction with Girlfriend
In 2015, Paige pleaded guilty in Cuyahoga Common Pleas Court to one count each of sexual battery, abduction, and domestic violence, stemming from a violent encounter with his girlfriend. For sentencing purposes, the sexual battery and abduction counts were merged.

On the sexual battery charge, the trial court sentenced Paige to 42 months in prison followed by five years of postrelease control. On the domestic violence count, he was sentenced to five years of community control to run concurrently with the prison sentence on the sexual battery offense. The domestic violence sentence included several conditions, including that once released on the sexual battery count, Paige had to return to the county jail for an assessment and transfer to the county’s community-based correctional facility (CBCF). He also was required to complete an anger management program, was prohibited from having contact with the victim, and was classified as a Tier III sex offender.

Aspects of Sentence Challenged
Paige appealed his sentence to the Eighth District Court of Appeals, arguing the trial court violated the law by imposing a prison term and community control sanction that were to be served at the same time, and by imposing additional confinement in the CBCF after he completed his prison sentence. The Eighth District vacated the domestic violence sentence, and Cuyahoga County prosecutors appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.

Court Sees Distinct Sentences, State Concedes Error
Chief Justice O’Connor explained that Ohio does not allow “split sentences.” For each felony offense, the law requires the trial court to impose either a prison term or a community control sanction, not both.

The Court stated that the trial court complied with the rule by imposing a prison sentence just for the sexual-battery count and a separate community control sentence for the domestic violence count. The Court wrote that merely because the community control sentence for the domestic violence conviction ran concurrently with the prison sentence for the separate sexual battery charge does not mean there was an improper split sentence.

The opinion noted that the state conceded the trial court erred when it ordered Paige’s placement in the CBCF after the prison term concluded. The Court stated that R.C. 2929.41(A) requires a “prison term, jail term, or sentence of imprisonment” to run concurrently, unless certain statutory exceptions apply. The Court noted that state law defines a term in a CBCF as “imprisonment,” which made the mandate that Paige spend time in a CBCF a “sentence of imprisonment” under the law, and none of the statutory exceptions to concurrent sentences of imprisonment applied here.

“Accordingly, the trial court had no statutory authority to order, as part of the community-control sanction, that Paige be placed in a CBCF after his completion of the separate prison term,” the opinion stated.

The Court reversed the Eighth District’s decision to vacate the entire sentence for Paige’s domestic violence charge. The justices vacated only the portion of the sentence requiring confinement in the CBCF and left the remaining conditions of the five-year community control sentence intact, including the required anger-management training and the no-contact-with-the-victim order.

2016-1848. State v. Paige, Slip Opinion No. 2018-Ohio-813.

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