The attorney for former Dayton restaurant owner Eva Christian has asked the Ohio 2nd District Court of Appeals to overturn Christian’s five felony convictions and her nine-year prison sentence.
In a 72-page appeals brief filed more than a year after Christian’s trial and guilty verdict, Dayton attorney Brock Schoenlein contends that the trial court judge, Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Barbara Gorman, made multiple errors during Christian’s May 2012 trial that should prompt the appeals court to order a new trial or to shorten Christian’s prison sentence.
Christian, the former owner of the now-defunct Boulevard Haus restaurant in Dayton’s Oregon District, was convicted May 22, 2012 of five felony counts — including a first-degree felony count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity — related to two incidents of insurance fraud. The case revolved around break-ins and a fire during 2009 that Christian reported and which prosecutors said were staged in order to collect insurance money: one break-in at her Washington Twp. home and a reported vandalism and fire at her former Cena Brazilian Steakhouse in Miami Twp. near the Dayton Mall.
Testimony during the two-week trial included a prosecution witness who testified that Christian wanted to “blow up” Cena, which was adjacent to a family-portrait studio and men’s clothing store near the Dayton Mall. Prosecutors say Christian faces deportation upon her release from prison unless the conviction is overturned on appeal. She was born in Croatia and raised in Germany, and has German citizenship.
Schoenlein, appointed by the court to represent Christian, cited 11 of what he described as judicial errors that should lead to the overturning of her conviction or a reduction of her sentence. Those allegations of error say that the trial court judge:
• improperly allowed prosecutors to enter into evidence multiple items seized during a search of Christian’s home that was performed on the basis of a flawed search warrant and supporting affidavit;
• overstepped her authority by imposing a nine-year prison sentence because she failed to take into consideration recent changes in Ohio sentencing laws that called for a lesser sentence; and
• did not instruct the jury properly on the law prior to deliberations.
The attorney also argues that the jury’s guilty-on-all-counts verdict were “against the weight of the evidence” presented at the three-week trial. Prosecutors presented testimony from police, fire and insurance company investigators and from a witness who testified that she and her husband were part of a scheme developed by Christian to stage both break-ins.
During her sentencing hearing last year, Christian — who testified at her trial and denied wrongdoing — remained defiant about the jury’s decision to convict her, saying she “cannot confess to a crime I have not committed.” Judge Gorman denied Christian’s request to avoid a prison sentence, calling Christian “a dangerous person” and told the former restaurant owner, “I don’t think you have a conscience.”
A three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeals will consider Christian’s legal attempt to overturn her conviction.
No hearing or arguments before the appeals court have been set yet.