COLUMBIANA COUNTY, Ohio (WKBN) — The 7th District Court of Appeals this week issued two opinions upholding sentences in cases from Columbiana County.
The court upheld the conviction and sentence of Mitchell Baker, 28, of Wellsville, who was sentenced in August 2022 to 8 to 12 years in prison after he was convicted by a jury in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court on charges of felonious assault and domestic violence.
Jurors could not reach a verdict on an accompanying rape charge.
Two of the three prongs of Baker’s appeal focused on the Regan-Tokes sentencing law which took effect in 2019, which calls for courts to give an indefinite sentence to a defendant convicted of a first or second-degree felony that does not carry a life prison sentence.
Baker’s appellate counsel claimed the law is unconstitutional and that he was not notified of his rights under the sentencing law by the trial court. The appeals court disagreed on both counts and also found a third error Baker claimed, ineffective trial counsel, moot.
Charges were filed against Baker in October 2021. Baker was accused of beating a woman and then forcing her to perform a sex act inside a house on Haiti Road in Salineville.
The court also ruled against Darrell Blake, 36, of Cleveland, who was sentenced in May 2022 to 13 to 16 and a half years in prison after being convicted in common pleas court of possession of heroin, possession of a fentanyl-related compound and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Blake said his convictions should be thrown out because there was not enough evidence to convict him, saying there was no evidence he physically possessed the drugs that the Columbiana County Drug Task Force found while serving a May 22, 2019, search warrant at a 14th Street house in Wellsville.
The appeals court ruled that Blake’s convictions should stand because he was in close proximity to the drugs when they were found.
Blake also said the trial court should not have allowed evidence of other drug transactions he was not charged with, but the appeals court said the evidence showed that Baker knew where the drugs were in the house and it showed how he was not in the “wrong place at the wrong time.”
The appeals court also denied Blake’s claims of ineffective counsel and arguments that Regan-Tokes is unconstitutional.
Inside the home, investigators said they found 17 grams of suspected crack cocaine, 20 grams of suspected fentanyl, two guns, digital scales and packing material. They said the street value for the drugs is about $5,500.
The three-judge panel that heard the case were Judges Mark Hanni, Carol Ann Robb and David D’Apolito.