Imprisoned restaurant owner appeals to Ohio Supreme Court

The attorney for imprisoned Dayton restaurant owner Eva Christian has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to review her case in an attempt to have her most serious conviction thrown out.

The appeal, filed March 2 by attorney Brock Schoenlein of Dayton, has put Christian’s re-sentencing hearing on hold. That hearing had been set for this Wednesday before Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Barbara Gorman.

Christian, the former owner of Cafe Boulevard/Boulevard Haus in Dayton’s Oregon District and Cena Brazilian Steakhouse in Miami Twp., has served nearly four years of a nine-year prison sentence for convictions on five counts of insurance-fraud-related charges.

The appeals process has taken several twists and turns since a jury convicted Christian in June 2012. Most recently, the Ohio 2nd District Court of Appeals last month reinstated a conviction against Christian for “engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity,” the most serious charge against her. But the court also reduced the severity of that charge from a first-degree felony to a second-degree felony and ordered Judge Gorman, who presided over the jury trial, to re-sentence Christian in light of the reduced charges. The restaurant owner was convicted on four other counts, all related to insurance fraud, which were lesser felony offenses, although one has been reduced to a misdemeanor.

The appeals court’s ruling could bring about a reduction of a year or more in Christian’s nine-year sentence. But Schoenlein had urged the appeals court to throw out the corruption count entirely, which would potentially have cut Christian’s sentence in half. He is now urging the state’s highest court to review whether the corrupt-activity count is appropriate in Christian’s case.

Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. has said his office will request that Christian’s original nine-year sentence be re-imposed.

“Although a change in the law resulted in a reduction in the severity of the (corruption) conviction from a felony of the first degree to a felony of the second degree, the serious nature of her criminal actions and the danger she poses to the community has not changed,” Heck said in a statement last month. “Accordingly, nine years, as originally ordered by the trial judge, remains an appropriate sentence for her crimes and will result in her serving the same amount of time in the penitentiary.”

Christian owned and operated Boulevard Haus (formerly Cafe Boulevard) in Dayton’s Oregon District for 15 years. The criminal case revolved around break-ins and a 2009 fire 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 what was then her second restaurant, Cena Brazilian Steakhouse.

Prosecutors have said Christian faces possible deportation when she is released.

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