Putnam County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Todd Schroeder (right) presented his oral arguments in the appeals of The State of Ohio v. Jeremy Stober to Judges Stephen Shaw, John Willamowski, and Vernon Preston. (Ada Herald/Becky Leader)
ADA - Oral arguments were heard on Tuesday in The State of Ohio v. Jeremy Stober. The case was presented to the Third District Court of Appeals of Ohio in the Celebrezze Moot Court Room of Ohio Northern University's Pettit College of Law.Stober was found guilty in February 2013 of sexual battery, importuning, and gross sexual imposition. He is a former technology coordinator, volleyball, basketball, and baseball coach for Kalida Local Schools.
The special session at ONU was part of an educational outreach program that gave students, educators, and the public the opportunity to enhance their understanding of the appellate process. The Third District, which is based in Lima, is comprised of 17 counties (60 judges, 67 courts) and travels among them for special court sessions.
Appellate Judges Stephen Shaw, Vernon Preston, and presiding judge John Willamowski heard Stober's case.
Attorney Steve Chamberlin presented his case for appeal on Stober's behalf. Putnam County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Todd Schroeder represented the State of Ohio.
Stober was not present for the case, as this was not a trial.
Each attorney had a total of 15 minutes to present his arguments. Chamberlin had filed the appeal on what he believed were several assignments of error,; each attorney prepared a brief that was presented to the appellate court prior to the arguments.
Chamberlin went first, and reserved three minutes for rebuttal.
The first area was the issue of force, as Chamberlin argued the record was clear that Stober's acts lacked the element of force. He cited several cases to support his argument.
OVERSET FOLLOWS:The second argument was that the trial should have been three separate trials. The third argument was the continued use of witnesses for uncharged prior "bad acts," and that the witnesses should not have testified, since the acts were not charged. Lastly, Chamberlin argued that the trial court unduly prejudiced the jury by providing them with instructions that were specific to rape. Schroeder answered each of Chamberlin's points. He cited similar cases in which other courts had upheld decisions. Schroeder pointed out that that Stober was in a position of "obvious power" in his role as the victims' teacher or coach, which is "subtle and psychological force." He spoke of Stober grooming the victims from an early age, through personal meetings, text messaging, and eventually sexual contact. The State presented witnesses who had testified that Stober had engaged in similar conduct in the past, in order to show a pattern of his behavior. Schroeder noted the defense had not objected to the witnesses' testimony during the trial. He also pointed out the jury was given the instructions as was written. Chamberlin then had three minutes for a rebuttal, during which time he returned to the issues of force and the jury's instructions. Judge Willamowski questioned, "Are you saying the trial court telegraphed something to the jury?"
Chamberlin affirmed, "Yes." Williamowski pointed out that defense attorneys had not objected to the jury instructions during the trial.
The panel of judges took the matter under advisement, and will make a decision at a later time. Oral arguments differ from a trial, in that the judges were able to ask questions of the attorneys during their presentations to clarify certain points.
Schroeder said he expects the appellate court to render a written decision in the case in four to six months. There are three possible outcomes: The State's case could be affirmed, the trial court's decision could be reversed, or the case could be remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings. The Third District Court of Appeals hears cases every Tuesday during the year. Once a year, court is held at Ohio Northern University. Approximately 100 students, dressed in professional attire, observed the process.
The Court also heard arguments in another case, an appeal and a cross-appeal in a civil case from Mercer County.
After the arguments, the students were able to ask general questions of the judges and the attorneys; they were not permitted to ask questions specific to either case. Judge Shaw said the oral arguments were the judges' chance to learn further facts about a case from the people who know the most about the case, the attorneys. "It is how the facts play into some significant legal aspects, and the attorneys' opportunity to present their perspectives to the judges, lawyer to lawyer." Judge Preston said child abuse cases are always difficult, as there is much emotion involved.
Stober's attorneys from Toledo have filed another appeal, which will be heard at a later date.