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Date: 05-07-2019

Case Style:

STATE OF OHIO -vs- MATTHEW ERWIN TARBERT

Case Number: 18CA56

Judge: Craig R. Baldwin

Court: COURT OF APPEALS RICHLAND COUNTY, OHIO FIFTH APPELLATE DISTRICT

Plaintiff's Attorney: JOSEPH C. SNYDER

Defendant's Attorney: JEFFEREY R. STIFFLER

Description:


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When appellant’s twelve year old son, K.T. was brought before Judge
Ronald Spon of the Richland County Juvenile Court for an incident that occurred at
school, the Judge acquired information that led him to modify appellant’s visitation with
K.T. Appellant learned of this modification and lashed out in a manner that led to his
arrest and ultimate conviction.
{¶3} K.T. appeared in Richland County Juvenile Court before Judge Spon on
February 7, 2015 regarding an event at school. He was accompanied by Charles Tarbert,
K.T.’s grandfather and legal custodian. Judge Spon talked with K.T. as part of his
standard procedure to assist in planning what assistance K. T. may need to avoid further
problems at school and additional juvenile court appearances. During the hearing, K.T.
made comments that led Judge Spon to conclude that the current visitation schedule was
not in K.T.’s best interest, so he issued a temporary order compelling appellant to come
to Richland County to visit K.T. Appellant was notified and he became angry, belligerent
and frustrated.
{¶4} Appellant made several calls to Richland County Juvenile Court regarding
this order and expressed his anger to Julie Myers, a juvenile court employee during a
telephone call on February 9, 2015. She attempted to explain the circumstances to
appellant and that a review hearing could be conducted, but appellant was not mollified
and, instead ended the conversation with the comment “someone needs to take a bullet
up there.” Ms. Myer’s reported this comment to her supervisor and court personnel were
warned of appellant’s comments. A review hearing regarding visitation was scheduled for
February 16, 2015, one week after appellant’s conversation.
Richland County, Case No. 18CA56 3

{¶5} In the intervening days, Amy Tarbert, appellant’s step-mother, notified the
Juvenile Court of appellant’s FaceBook posts expressing anger toward Judge Spon,
juvenile court personnel and appellant’s father and step mother. Appellant’s threats and
photographs of an AR-15 in his possession, all posted on FaceBook, prompted Judge
Spon to prepare for a possible violent encounter with appellant on the day of the hearing.
He suspended all visitation between appellant and K.T. He convened an emergency
meeting with law enforcement officials regarding the threats and they agreed upon a plan
designed to eliminate any possibility of harm to the public or court staff.
{¶6} When appellant arrived for the hearing on February 16, 2015, he was
confronted by two plainclothes officers who confirmed that he was not armed and asked
if he had any weapons in his vehicle. He indicated that he had his AR-15 underneath the
back seat of his vehicle with ammunition in a bag under the front seat. The officers
searched appellant for weapons and permitted appellant to enter the court and attend the
review hearing.
{¶7} When appellant left the court he was arrested. His vehicle was to be towed,
but he mentioned that it was a rental and not his personal vehicle. The officers contacted
the rental company regarding the vehicle and the company representative stated that they
would send someone to pick up the vehicle to avoid a towing charge. The officers
mentioned that there was a weapon in the vehicle and the rental company asked that all
personal property be removed from the vehicle prior to their taking possession.
{¶8} The officers agreed to remove any personal property from the rental vehicle.
They created a photographic record of their findings which included an AR-15 that was
Richland County, Case No. 18CA56 4

completely concealed under the back seat and a bag of ammunition including two
magazines for the AR-15, both loaded with ammunition for the AR-15.
{¶9} Appellant was charged with intimidation, a violation of R. C. 2921.03 (A), a
felony of the third degree with a firearm specification pursuant to R. C. 2941.145, and a
forfeiture specification pursuant to R. C. 2941.1417; two counts of inducing panic in
violation of section 2913.71 (A)(3), a misdemeanor of the first degree; one count of
carrying a concealed weapon in violation of R. C. 2923.12 (A)(1), a felony of the fourth
degree with a forfeiture specification pursuant to R. C. 2941.1417; one count of improperly
handling firearms in a motor vehicle in violation of section 2923.16 (B), a felony of the
fourth degree with forfeiture specifications pursuant to R. C. 2941.1417.
{¶10} The state presented this matter to a jury on June 20, 2018, and after
presentation of the evidence appellant was convicted of two counts of inducing panic and
one count of carrying a concealed weapon. He was acquitted on the remaining charges.
Appellant filed a timely notice of appeal and submitted four assignments of error:
{¶11} “I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT DENIED
APPELLANT/DEFENDANT'S RULE 29 MOTION TO DISMISS COUNT FOUR,
CARRYING CONCEALED WEAPON, WHICH DENIED APPELLANT DUE PROCESS
OF LAW AS GUARANTEED BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES AND
OHIO.
{¶12} “II. APPELLANT'S CONVICTION FOR CARRYING CONCEALED
WEAPON WAS NOT SUPPORTED BY SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE.
Richland County, Case No. 18CA56 5

{¶13} “III. APPELLANT WAS DEPRIVED OF EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF
COUNSEL, IN VIOLATION OF HIS SIXTH AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT RIGHTS
AND HIS RIGHTS UNDER THE OHIO CONSTITUTION.
{¶14} “IV. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FAILING TO INSTRUCT THE JURY
ON R.C. 2923.12(C)(1)(c), WHICH, IF THE JURY FOUND THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF
THAT SUBSECTION MET, WOULD RENDER R.C. 2923.12 INAPPLICABLE, THUS
PRECLUDING APPELLANT'S CONVICTION FOR CARRYING CONCEALED
WEAPON.”
STANDARD OF REVIEW
{¶15} In his First Assignment of Error, appellant contends the trial court erred by
denying his motion to dismiss the charge of carrying a concealed weapon because the
weapon was not within immediate physical reach when he was arrested and because it
was not concealed in his vehicle while it was transported.
{¶16} Crim.R. 29(A) governs a motion for acquittal:
The court on motion of a defendant or on its own motion, after the
evidence on either side is closed, shall order the entry of a judgment of
acquittal of one or more offenses charged in the indictment, information, or
complaint, if the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction of such
offense or offenses. The court may not reserve ruling on a motion for
judgment of acquittal made at the close of the state's case.
{¶17} “A motion for acquittal under Crim.R. 29(A) is governed by the same
standard as the one for determining whether a verdict is supported by sufficient evidence.”
State v. Spaulding, 151 Ohio St.3d 378, 2016-Ohio-8126, 89 N.E.3d 554, ¶ 164,
Richland County, Case No. 18CA56 6

reconsideration denied, 147 Ohio St.3d 1480, 2016-Ohio-8492, 66 N.E.3d 766, quoting
State v. Tenace, 109 Ohio St.3d 255, 2006-Ohio-2417, 847 N.E.2d 386, ¶ 37. “The
relevant inquiry is whether, after viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the
prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime
proven beyond a reasonable doubt.” Id., quoting State v. Jenks, 61 Ohio St.3d 259, 574
N.E.2d 492 (1991), paragraph two of the syllabus.
ANALYSIS
{¶18} Appellant has been charged with a violation of R.C. 2923.12(A)(1), Carrying
a Concealed Weapon which states: “No person shall knowingly carry or have, concealed
on the person's person or concealed ready at hand, any of the following: *** A deadly
weapon other than a handgun.” The charge is referencing the AR-15 rifle appellant had
concealed in his vehicle underneath the seat, with ammunition concealed under the front
seat, all of which were accessible to appellant from the driver’s seat in the vehicle.
Appellant admitted that he drove the vehicle from his home in Butler County, Ohio to the
hearing at Richland County Juvenile Court with the weapon and ammunition in the
vehicle, but denied that the weapon was concealed before he left the vehicle.
{¶19} Appellant’s first argument is an attempt to add language to R.C.
2923.12(A)(1) to create a defense. He argues that he did not have the weapon on his
person or ready at hand when he was arrested and thus he committed no offense.
Revised Code 2923.12(A)(1) contains no requirement that he be in possession of the
weapon or have it ready at hand when he is arrested and it does not require an arrest
only while the appellant was committing the offense. We therefor reject the first part of
appellant’s argument.
Richland County, Case No. 18CA56 7

{¶20} Appellant next contends that the weapon was not concealed during the
transport from his home to his parking space near the court. He testified that he
concealed the weapon under the back seat of the truck only after he arrived and only to
avoid theft. The investigating officers found the weapon and the ammunition concealed
beneath the back and front seats respectively, so the appellant’s credibility is the focal
point of this portion of appellant’s argument. The weight to be given to the evidence and
the credibility of the witnesses are issues for the trier of fact. State v. DeHass, 10 Ohio
St.2d 230, 227 N.E.2d 212 (1967). The trier of fact “has the best opportunity to view the
demeanor, attitude, and credibility of each witness, something that does not translate well
on the written page.” Davis v. Flickinger, 77 Ohio St.3d 415, 418, 674 N.E.2d 1159
(1997).The jury was free to believe or reject appellant’s assertion that he concealed the
weapon only after he arrived in Mansfield and parked his vehicle and the jury rejected the
appellant’s contention.
{¶21} We hold that, after viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the
prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime
proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Appellant’s first assignment of error is denied.
{¶22} In his second assignment of error, appellant contends that his conviction for
carrying a concealed weapon was not supported by sufficient evidence. This argument
was combined with his argument regarding the First Assignment of Error. As we have
noted above, the standard of review for the first assignment of error, regarding an alleged
erroneous denial of a Crim. R. 29 motion, is indistinct from the standard for review of an
assertion of lack of sufficient evidence. Because the analysis is essentially the same, our
conclusion is the same: we hold that, after viewing the evidence in a light most favorable
Richland County, Case No. 18CA56 8

to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the
crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Appellant’s second assignment of error is
denied.
{¶23} Appellant’s Third and Fourth Assignments of error rely upon the
interpretation of R.C. 2923.12(C)(1)(c) so we will address that Code Section before
considering the merits of the argument. To the extent that resolution of these
assignments of error involve the interpretation of the statute, our review is de novo. Riedel
v. Consol. Rail Corp., 125 Ohio St.3d 358, 2010–Ohio–1926, 928 N.E.2d 448, ¶ 6 (2010).
{¶24} Revised Code 2923.12(C)(1)(c) provides:
(C)(1) This section does not apply to any of the following:
***
(c) A person's transportation or storage of a firearm, other than a firearm
described in divisions (G) to (M) of section 2923.11 of the Revised Code, in
a motor vehicle for any lawful purpose if the firearm is not on the actor's
person;
{¶25} Appellant debates whether this subsection adds an element to the offense
of carrying a concealed weapon or creates an affirmative defense to that charge. We
hold that the statute creates an affirmative defense and that appellant waived that defense
by failing to assert it at trial.
{¶26} Revised Code 2901.05(D)(1) defines an affirmative defense as:
(a) A defense expressly designated as affirmative;
Richland County, Case No. 18CA56 9

(b) A defense involving an excuse or justification peculiarly within the
knowledge of the accused, on which the accused can fairly be required to
adduce supporting evidence.
{¶27} Revised Code Section 2923.12 does expressly provide for defenses, and
while subsection (C)(1)(c) is not included as a defense that is “expressly designated as
affirmative,” it is “a defense involving an excuse or justification peculiarly within the
knowledge of the accused, on which the accused can fairly be required to adduce
supporting evidence.” The “lawful purpose” for the transportation of the weapon is an
“excuse or justification peculiarly within the knowledge of the accused” because it is the
appellant’s internal motivation that determines his purpose. Compelling the appellee to
refute every potential lawful purpose would be unnecessarily burdensome when the
alleged “lawful purpose” is within appellant’s knowledge and it would be fair and practical
for him to provide supporting evidence. The Second District Court of Appeals reached
the same conclusion in State v. Johnson, 2nd Dist. Montgomery No. 25773, 2014-Ohio
2815, ¶ 32, and we see no reason to reach a different interpretation.
{¶28} Now that we have determined that R.C. 2923.12(C)(1)(c) creates an
affirmative defense, we will consider the appellant’s Third and Fourth Assignments of
Error.
{¶29} Appellant submits that he was deprived of effective assistance of counsel
because his trial counsel failed to assert the affirmative defense described in R.C.
2923.12(C)(1)(c). Reversal of a conviction or sentence based upon ineffective assistance
of counsel requires satisfying the two-prong test set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466
U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). Strickland requires that the defendant
Richland County, Case No. 18CA56 10

show, first, that counsel's performance was deficient and, second, that counsel's deficient
performance prejudiced the defense so as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial. Id. at
687, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674. In order to show deficient performance, the
defendant must prove that counsel's performance fell below an objective level of
reasonable representation. To show prejudice, the defendant must show a reasonable
probability that, but for counsel's errors, the result of the proceeding would have been
different. Id.; State v. Bradley, 42 Ohio St.3d 136, 143, 538 N.E.2d 373 (1989).
{¶30} Appellant argued in the court below that the AR-15 was not concealed while
he was in the vehicle driving to the court in Richland County. He testified that he
concealed the weapon only after he arrived and parked the vehicle so as to not tempt
someone to break into the vehicle and take the weapon. “And I took the AR and I put it
under the back seat. The last thing I want was somebody to bust a window, take the
firearm, and start shooting up something.” (Trial Transcript, page 48, Lines 20-21). His
testimony was inconsistent with the affirmative defense in subsection (C)(1)(c) which
would have required an admission that he had concealed the weapon at some earlier
point in his travels, but that he was transporting it for a lawful purpose. His counsel
evidently concluded that appellant’s best defense was to deny that the weapon had ever
been concealed and, under the circumstances, we cannot find that counsel's performance
fell below an objective level of reasonable representation. The threat that Julie Myers
described and the threatening Facebook posts could have led appellant’s counsel to
conclude that the best course of action was to avoid a thorough review of appellant’s
purpose for transporting the weapon to a court hearing and “[w]e will not second-guess
the strategic decisions counsel made at trial even though appellate counsel now argue
Richland County, Case No. 18CA56 11

that they would have defended differently.” State v. Post, 32 Ohio St.3d 380, 388, 513
N.E.2d 754 (1987) as quoted in State v. Mason, 82 Ohio St.3d 144, 169, 1998-Ohio-370,
694 N.E.2d 932 (1998).
{¶31} Appellant’s third assignment of error is overruled.
{¶32} Appellant next argues that the trial court erred by failing to include a jury
instruction regarding the affirmative defense described in R.C. 2923.12(C)(1)(c) and that
the omission was plain error. In order to prevail under a plain error analysis, appellant
bears the burden of demonstrating that the outcome of the trial clearly would have been
different but for the error. State v. Long, 53 Ohio St.2d 91, 372 N.E.2d 804 (1978); Crim.R.
52(B). Notice of plain error “is to be taken with the utmost caution, under exceptional
circumstances and only to prevent a manifest miscarriage of justice.” Long at paragraph
three of the syllabus.
{¶33} We interpret appellant’s argument regarding the inclusion of a jury
instruction to apply only if we found that R.C. 2923.12(C)(1)(c) is not an affirmative
defense. Appellant states on pages 17-18 of his brief: “[i]f this Court finds that section
does not constitute an affirmative defense, such that it would be on defense counsel to
raise said defense at trial and request a jury instruction on same, then Appellant avers
that a jury should be instructed as to R.C. 2923.12(C)(1) and its subsections, regardless
if that instruction is found in the Ohio Jury Instructions.” (Emphasis sic.) As we have found
that R.C. 2923.12(C)(1)(c) is an affirmative defense in this case, the appellant’s fourth
assignment of error is moot and we deny the same.

Outcome: The decision of the Richland County Court of Appeals is affirmed.

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