By Ed Runyan
The 11th District Court of Appeals has rejected a request by a 35-year-old Greenville, Pa., man to rescind guilty pleas he made in two 11-year-old traffic convictions.
Brian J. Ledney of Kinsman Road was 23 years old June 21, 2001, when he was cited by the Ohio State Highway Patrol for driving 66 mph in a 55 mph zone and failing to wear a seat belt.
He chose not to contest the charges and mailed in the fine to Newton Falls Municipal Court.
A little more than a week later, on July 1, 2011, he was charged with speeding again, this time 83 mph in a 55 mph zone. This time he was charged by a Braceville Township patrolman.
He appeared for court this time, also in Newton Falls Municipal Court, but again did not challenge the ticket. He paid the fine.
More than 10 years later, on Dec. 20, 2011, Ledney filed motions with Judge Philip Vigorito of Newton Falls Municipal Court asking that his guilty pleas and convictions be rescinded.
First, Ledney was not speeding, he claimed.
Second, the existence of the traffic citations “made it difficult for him to gain employment.”
Judge Vigorito denied Ledney’s request, and Ledney appealed to the 11th District.
In a decision written by Judge Timothy P. Cannon and affirmed by Judges Diane V. Grendell and Thomas R. Wright, the court said Ledney “voluntarily paid his uncontested fines in both his traffic cases. Though alleging he cannot find employment due to his speeding tickets from a decade ago,” Ledney gave no evidence to show that he suffers from “collateral disability,” the decision said.
Collateral disability refers to the damage that can result to a person’s reputation, ability to vote, secure employment and other things as a result of a criminal conviction.
“Therefore, as [Ledney’s] fines are paid, his sentences have been completed and there is nothing by which to infer any collateral disability, these appeals are moot,” the court said.
The decision noted that Ledney’s attempt to rescind his guilty pleas would have been denied even if he had shown collateral disability, however, because it is assumed that Ledney “entered his [guilty] pleas knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently,” the court said.
Furthermore, Ledney’s request to withdraw his guilty pleas could not be granted because he did not demonstrate that there had been any “manifest injustice” in his convictions.
Meanwhile, the appeals court did order a decision by a Trumbull County Common Pleas Court judge to be reversed in a civil case involving injuries suffered by a woman who stumbled while taking a walk in downtown Hubbard because of an uncapped hole in a public sidewalk.
Patricia Sabella, 53, of West Liberty Street, Hubbard, filed the lawsuit in 2010, seeking damages from East Ohio Gas Co. after she stumbled because a cap originally installed by East Ohio 6 inches in diameter was missing in the sidewalk.
Judge Peter Kontos granted summary judgment to East Ohio, dismissing the case, on the grounds that the hole was “an open and obvious danger” and the company was therefore not liable.
The appeals court said the court should dismiss the case only if the danger from the missing cap was “so obvious and apparent” that East Ohio Gas “could reasonably expect [Sabella] to discover and protect herself against it.”
Sabella had a “duty to use reasonable care for her own safety, but is not required to constantly look downward,” the appeals court said.
Because it’s disputable whether the hole’s danger was “open and obvious,” the appeals court ordered that the case be remanded back to Judge Kontos’ court for further proceedings, such as a settlement or trial.