The Ohio Supreme Court will decide how much more time former Dayton restaurant owner Eva Christian will remain behind bars.
The state’s highest court has accepted an appeal from the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office and has granted prosecutors’ request to postpone Christian’s re-sentencing until the supreme court issues its ruling.
Prosecutors appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court seeking to overturn a 2-1 decision by the Ohio 2nd District Court of Appeals that threw out Christian’s most serious felony conviction and reduced the severity of two other counts. Christian’s court-appointed attorney, Brock Schoenlein, has said the appeals court’s June 20 decision would effectively cut in half the former restaurant owner’s nine-year prison sentence handed down by Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Barbara Gorman following the 2012 trial.
The appeals court returned the case to Gorman for re-sentencing under the reduced charges, but the supreme court has put that re-sentencing on hold.
Even after scoring the partial legal victory, Christian, who owned and operated Boulevard Haus (formerly Cafe Boulevard) in Dayton’s Oregon District for 15 years, remains convicted of three felonies and one misdemeanor related to insurance fraud and filing false alarms.
She still may face the possibility of forced deportation upon her release from prison. Christian was born in Croatia and raised in Germany, and has German citizenship, although she was considered a “permanent resident” of the U.S. after marrying a U.S. citizen.
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 now-defunct Cena Brazilian Steakhouse in Miami Twp. near the Dayton Mall. Prosecutors told Ohio Supreme Court justices that Christian remains a flight risk should she be released from prison prior to the court’s ruling, in part because there is “an outstanding passport that (Christian) claimed was stolen in the burglary that she staged at her house.”
Testimony by prosecution witnesses during the trial suggested that Christian conspired with two accomplices in the break-in of her home and in the restaurant vandalism. But whether that conspiracy made Christian guilty of a first-degree felony criminal charge of “engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity” — often used to prosecute organized-crime cases — was the issue that appeals judges focused on most heavily on during the appeal’s oral arguments, and later reversed in their 2-1 decision.
Christian maintained her innocence throughout the trial, telling the judge prior to sentencing that she “cannot confess to a crime I have not committed.” Judge Gorman denied Christian’s request to avoid prison, telling the former restaurant owner, “I don’t think you have a conscience.”