PREBLE COUNTY — The Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals in late November upheld the conviction on sexual battery and other charges of a former Ohio State Trooper and Preble County resident.
Christopher Ward, 47, of Eaton, was convicted on one count of sexual battery and three counts of gross sexual imposition in Preble County Common Pleas Court in December 2019 and was sentenced to three years in prison in May of last year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the court stayed his sentence and he was allowed to remain out of jail.
Following the Appeal’s Court’s ruling on Nov. 22, Ward’s attorney, Steven Hobbs, filed a motion for a new trial on Monday, Nov. 29, the day on which a hearing was scheduled to impose Ward’s prison sentence.
According to court documents, Ward, a trooper with the Ohio State Highway Patrol, was investigated after multiple women and a minor made allegations against him of sexual misconduct.
Court documents noted, “The minor, a 15-year- old girl, told police that during a sleepover with Ward’s daughter, Ward touched her pubic area underneath her panties. One woman told police that she was a passenger in a car that Ward pulled over for speeding. After Ward ordered her out of the car, Ward patted the woman down multiple times, using an open hand and cupping the area between the woman’s legs and chest area with his hands.”
The documents continued, “Ward pulled another woman over for allegedly having a broken brake light on a trailer she was pulling behind her vehicle. Ward entered the woman’s vehicle with his pants unzipped. When the woman tried to exit her vehicle, Ward pulled her by her hair closer to him and threatened her. He then slapped her, stepped on her hand, and sexually assaulted her. After the sexual assault occurred, Ward photographed the woman with a camera. Another woman reported that Ward pulled her over several times, issuing a warning each time rather than a citation. He wrote his telephone number on the last written warning he gave her, and the woman agreed to call him out of hopes that he would stop pulling her over.”
After the two went to dinner and then back to Ward’s home where the woman had parked her vehicle, according to court documents “The woman heard Ward answer a telephone call from his daughter and heard that Ward was screaming at his daughter over the phone. He then disappeared for a few moments and then returned wearing his trooper’s uniform. He then pinned the woman’s arms down,” and touched her beneath her clothing. “She was then able to escape,” according to court documents.
Ward was indicted in the Preble County Common Pleas Court on several counts related to the alleged sexual misconduct. He pleaded not guilty and waived his right to a jury trial. Following a multiple-day bench trial, the court found him guilty of one count of sexual battery and three counts of gross sexual imposition. He was sentenced to three years in prison and designated a sex offender.
Ward argued in the appeals court that the state withheld evidence from the defense when it did not produce GPS records that showed the location of his OSP cruiser during the alleged sexual offenses, according to the court records.
The Appeals Court did not agree. “The GPS records in question showed the location of Ward’s patrol cruiser at various times. It is undisputed that the documents showing the coordinates were public record and thus available to Ward at any point prior to trial. In fact, Ward asserted in his motion for a new trial that he had made a public records request for records of his GPS coordinates that he now claims were suppressed by the state,” the court said in its ruling, noting there had been hundreds of pages of GPS records presented by the state in discovery, and saying, if Ward had not reported a particular incident, his cruiser would not have recorded his location.
Another argument Ward made in his appeal was that his conviction was “against the manifest weight of the evidence.”
The appellate court disagreed on that count as well, writing, ” After reviewing the record and weighing the evidence with all related reasonable inferences, we find that the trial court did not clearly lose its way or create such a manifest miscarriage of justice that Ward’s convictions must be reversed and a new trial ordered.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr.