By Scott Halasz
FAIRBORN —The Ohio Second District Court of Appeals overturned the conviction of a Fairborn man who received three life sentences for child rape.
Howard Reeves, 68, was was found guilty of three counts of child rape, as well as five counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, by Greene County Common Pleas Judge Michael Buckwalter in March 2015.
The appeals court, in a decision filed Aug. 26, reversed Buckwalter’s decision and sent the base back to the Greene County Prosecutor’s office.
In an appeal document, William Daly, Reeves’ court-appointed attorney, listed several issues for the appeals court to review, one of which was Reeves’ right to a speedy trial, which according to Daly, was not upheld.
Another issue relates to an incorrectly stated plea deal that Reeves was offered prior to the start of his trial. Reeves was told the incorrect possible sentences for charges he would have been required to plead guilty to in accepting the deal. Before the trial began, Reeves turned down the deal.
After the court heard witnesses and evidence in the trial, it was discovered that Reeves had been told the incorrect possible sentences for the plea deal. The defense’s argument is that if Reeves had been told the correct possible sentences involved in the plea deal prior to the trial and had accepted that deal then, the court would not have heard the evidence to the extent that it did during the full trial proceedings, and would not have been able to consider that evidence during sentencing.
In the decision, Judge Mary E. Donovan wrote, “The record establishes that appellant’s right to speedy trial was not violated with respect to the charges stated in the original complaint. However, regarding the additional counts in the indictment issued after the case was transferred to common pleas court, speedy trial time elapsed. Accordingly, Counts VII and VIII are to be dismissed by the trial court.”
Those two counts are unlawful sexual conduct with a minor with repeat offender specification, according to court documents. In 2001, Reeves was convicted of sexual battery after pleading no contest, according to court records. Reeves was sentenced to five years of community control.
Donovan also opined that Reeves received “ineffective assistance when his counsel failed to object to the trial court’s decision to not allow him the opportunity to accept the plea bargain offered by the State.”
She added that the trial court erred when it refused to give Reeves the opportunity to accept the plea bargain.
Reeves was indicted by a Greene County grand jury on the charges in October of 2014.
Three of the counts against Reeves allege sexual conduct with a person under the age of 13. The remaining five counts allege sexual conduct with a person between the ages of 13 and 16.
Reeves was arrested in August 2014 after one of the alleged victims agreed to participate in a controlled meeting or “sting” operation. Just moments after the minor completed a brief conversation with Reeves, police moved in and arrested the Fairborn man.
In an interview with police recorded shortly after his arrest – which was played for the court Monday – Reeves admitted to the incidents, of which police estimated there to be more than 1,000 occurrences.
Reeves waived his right to a jury trial Buckwalter heard all the witnesses and evidence himself in a bench trial. Reeves was offered a plea deal by prosecutors before his trial began, but it was subsequently discovered that in explaining the deal, both the prosecution and the defense incorrectly stated the sentences for some of the counts Reeves would be required to plead guilty to in accepting the deal.
Daly then indicated during the proceedings that Reeves wanted to change his plea, but that “he would like to do that before a different judge,” because “this particular honorable court has heard all the evidence, has heard all the details, has heard several witnesses, has heard facts which ordinarily a court which would take a guilty plea or a no contest plea, would not have heard.”
The defense’s argument was that if Reeves had been told the correct possible sentences involved in the plea deal prior to the trial and had accepted that deal then, the court would not have heard the evidence to the extent that it did during the full trial proceedings, and would not have been able to consider that evidence during sentencing.
The Greene County Prosecutor’s Office could not be reached for comment.