LOGAN – A judge has rejected an attempt by a defendant who’s facing kidnap and assault charges to have most of his indictment dismissed on speedy trial grounds.
In a motion filed June 25 in Hocking County Common Pleas Court, the attorney for 29-year-old Tyler J. Masteller argued that because Masteller had been held in jail without trial for longer than Ohio law allows, he should have four of the five counts against him dismissed. Judge John T. Wallace, in a judgment entry filed Tuesday, denied that motion.
In doing so, Wallace rejected a claim by the defense that some of its own motions in the case did not serve to “toll,” or stop the clock on, the time that elapses before a defendant is brought to trial.
Masteller was indicted in February on two counts of kidnapping with a three-year firearm specification; one count of felonious assault with a three-year firearm specification; and one count each of tampering with evidence and domestic violence. The charges stem from a November 2020 incident in which he allegedly threatened his girlfriend and her three small children with a shotgun, refused to allow them to leave the camper in which they were living, and fired the weapon twice.
In December 2020, a charge of felonious assault filed against Masteller in Hocking County Municipal Court was dismissed, and the case was set aside for future indictment. An indictment was then filed on Feb. 26 in common pleas court, containing the charges listed above.
In his June 25 dismissal motion, defense attorney Timothy P. Gleeson noted that Masteller was arrested Nov. 25, incarcerated in the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail, and released Dec. 21. After his indictment, Masteller was arrested on a warrant March 31 and returned on April 1 to the regional jail, where he stayed until he was released on June 21.
Ohio law requires the state to try a felony defendant within 270 days of arrest, with every day the person is held in lieu of bond counting as three days. Because Masteller’s two stretches in jail add up to 108 days, which under the three-for-one rule counts as 324 days, Gleeson maintained that his client’s speedy trial rights had been violated.
Since four of the five charges in the indictment – all but the evidence tampering count – stem from the same incident that produced the initial charge in municipal court, Gleeson contended, speedy trial time for those four charges should be calculated from the initial arrest date, and they should be dismissed.
Gleeson suggested that a decision on this issue had the potential to break new ground on a narrow legal question that apparently hadn’t been ruled on in an Ohio court before – namely, whether a defense motion seeking discovery or a bill of particulars, filed before a preliminary hearing in municipal court, qualifies as a tolling event for speedy trial calculations. While the Ohio Supreme Court has found that these types of defense motions are indeed tolling events, Gleeson maintained that they should not be when they are filed before a preliminary municipal court hearing.
In his ruling July 20, Judge Wallace disagreed. He noted that after Masteller’s arrest he was brought to Hocking County Municipal Court on Nov. 30, and the next day, Dec. 1, the defense filed the motions in question. The state had not yet responded to these motions when the municipal court charge was dismissed on Dec. 21. Under Ohio case law, defense discovery motions of this type do not apply to a preliminary hearing, because the purpose of such a hearing is to determine whether there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed a crime. Therefore, Gleeson appears to argue, the defense motions he cites could not have the effect of delaying the case, and therefore cannot be tolling events.
Gleeson’s argument, according to the judge, boils down to saying that “if the request for discovery is a nonentity then it cannot serve as a tolling event.” Wallace rejected, however, the notion that the defense could base an argument for dismissal on the claim that its own motions were essentially irrelevant.
“While the state presented no evidence that it had done anything to act on the (defense) request before the dismissal, the court believes that it would be unfair to allow the defendant to claim that his own request was a nullity,” Wallace wrote. He noted that an Ohio 4th District appellate court ruling has found that 30 days is a “reasonable” amount of time to give the state to respond to a discovery request, and that 30 days had not elapsed when the initial charge against Masteller was dismissed.
“Neither the speedy trial statute nor the Constitution grant defendant a right to benefit on the basis of a motion that the defendant now argues should not have been filed,” Wallace concluded.
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