Austintown man’s plea brings objection
The parties disagree on whether he was clearly informed of his plea options.
By MICHELE C. HLADIK
COLUMBUS — Joseph Jones of Austintown didn’t understand the ramifications of pleading guilty to domestic violence, and all plea options were not explained, his lawyer told the Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday.
“This is a straightforward case of the complete failure of the trial court,” said Cleveland Attorney Brent L. English to the high court. English represented Jones during oral arguments.
He said there are rules the trial courts must follow, and the trial court failed to explain all of Jones’ options, including the ability and ramifications of pleading “no contest.”
In 2004, Jones was charged with three counts of domestic violence after being accused of beating his fiancee’s three children. Jones originally pleaded innocent, but later agreed to plead guilty to one count in exchange for the dismissal of the other two counts.
Sentenced to serve 180 days with 170 days suspended, Jones was also ordered to pay a $150 fine and court costs, attend anger management classes, receive a psychological evaluation and attend counseling, if deemed necessary by the evaluation.
Jones later tried to withdraw his guilty plea. The trial court denied the motion, and Jones took the case to the 7th District Court of Appeals. The appellate court reversed the trial court’s decision and allowed Jones to withdraw his plea and ordered the case would be decided in a trial.
Dispute about a form
Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor Rhys B. Cartwright-Jones and Assistant Attorney General Henry Appel represented the state on the matter.
Cartwright-Jones said a plea form was used in this case and the no-contest plea was clearly on the form.
Appel said Jones never asked about the no-contest plea option or report that his attorney had never explained it.
English argued the form simply listed plea options and did not explain each of those options. He said Jones could not question it if he was not aware it was available, and the judge in the case should have verbally informed him of each option.
According to Cartwright-Jones, a no-contest plea would have violated a plea agreement with the prosecution on the case.
The high court has taken the matter under advisement. It didn’t say when it would rule.