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Published: Saturday, 8/28/2010

Court overturns assault conviction of Perrysburg man

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals Friday overturned the vehicular assault conviction of a Perrysburg man and reversed his conviction for domestic violence, sending the charge back to Wood County Common Pleas Court for a new trial.

A jury convicted Reggie Hohenberger, 50, on Oct. 23 for events that took place May 18, 2008.

Judge Robert Pollex sentenced Mr. Hohenberger in March to three years of community control; six months on electronic home monitoring, and 200 hours of community service, with a $5,000 fine.

When the court's decision became known, the electronic monitoring ended, after five months and a week, said Jerome Phillips, Mr. Hohenberger's attorney.

"It was just unfortunately a long ordeal for my client and his family," Mr. Phillips said. "And I'm glad that at least this part of it is resolved."

The decision whether to retry Mr. Hohenberger rests with Paul Dobson, the Wood County prosecutor, Mr. Phillips said.

Mr. Dobson could not be reached Friday night.

Mr. Hohenberger in his appeal maintained that the trial court should not have denied his motion to dismiss the vehicular assault charge for failing to provide a speedy trial - an argument the appeals court found convincing.

He was indicted in September, 2008, on a count of aggravated vehicular assault and failing to stop after an accident, both felonies, and domestic violence, a misdemeanor.

The indictment stemmed from the events in May, 2008, when he was alleged to have argued at a bar with his wife, Kathleen Hohenberger; hit her in the face; driven off in his sport utility vehicle; returned to the bar parking lot only to drive over a curb, hit his wife with the SUV, and drive off again, according to a summary in the appeals court decision.

Mr. Hohenberger pleaded not guilty, as he did in October, 2009, after he was indicted on a new count of vehicular assault.

The prosecution filed a motion to dismiss the aggravated vehicular assault charge because Mr. Hohenberger had entered a plea in November, 2008, in Perrysburg Municipal Court on a charge of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

Mr. Hohenberger signed a waiver of his speedy trial right after he was charged with aggravated vehicular assault.

But, the appeals court found, that "waiver did not carry over to the vehicular assault charge" and the trial court should have dismissed the case.

Mr. Hohenberger, in his appeal, argued that the domestic violence conviction should be reversed and retried because testimony about the vehicular assault was "unfairly prejudicial, confused the issues, and misled the jury," according to the appeals court. "We agree."

The couple has continued to live together, except for a period early on when the court issued a no-contact order "over the objections of [Mrs. Hohenberger]," Mr. Phillips said.

Mr. Hohenberger was business manager of Local 33, Sheet Metal Workers' International Association. He was removed from office because of the felony conviction, Mr. Phillips said.

The prosecution has 45 days to appeal the decision to the Ohio Supreme Court, Mr. Phillips said.

He can be reinstated to his union post after the final appeal is resolved - or the prosecution decides not to appeal.

The court's decision was signed by Judges John Willamowski; Richard Rogers, and Vernon Preston, of the Third District Court of Appeals, sitting by assignment of the Ohio Supreme Court.



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