Eva Christian case continues circuitous path through the court system

After 6 years behind bars, Dayton restaurant owner Eva Christian still fights to shave time off her prison sentence

Legal appeals by former owner of Cafe Boulevard and Cena Brazilian Steakhouse will extend well into 2019, judges say

The long-running legal appeals by imprisoned former Dayton restaurant owner Eva Christian will extend at least through the spring of 2019 as she tries to shave time off her nine-year sentence.

The Ohio Supreme Court, which agreed by the narrowest of margins to hear Christian’s most recent legal appeal, on Wednesday scheduled oral arguments in the case on March 26, 2019, according to the court’s web site.

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By that time, Christian will have served nearly seven years of her nine-year sentence. And the justices on the state’s highest court will likely weigh those oral arguments for several weeks before they release their decision. 

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Christian’s legal case has had several twists and turns over the years since June 2012, when Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Barbara P. Gorman sentenced the former owner of two Dayton-area restaurants to nine years in prison for multiple felony and misdemeanor convictions related to insurance fraud. But one thing has remained constant throughout the appeals: Christian herself has remained behind bars, in the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Mansfield. 

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Even this most recent appeal probably wouldn’t free her from prison immediately: both her attorney and prosecutors say the most Christian could see her sentence reduced is one year, moving her release date up to May 2020 from its current May 2021.

Christian owned and operated Cafe Boulevard (later Boulevard Haus) in Dayton’s Oregon District for 15 years, and also owned Cena Brazilian Steakhouse in front of the Dayton Mall in Miami Twp.

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The criminal case involved a 2009 fire and vandalism incident that Christian reported at Cena, and a break-in at her private residence in Washington Twp., which prosecutors and law-enforcement officials said were staged in order to collect insurance money. A jury agreed, 

convicting Christian in 2012 of five counts related to insurance fraud, filing a false report and running a crime ring. 

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The nearly six years of appeals have failed to overturn those convictions entirely, but they did reduce the severity of some of the counts. Whether Judge Gorman has the right to keep her nine-year sentence intact, or whether she is bound by sentencing guidelines to reduce Christian’s sentence from nine to eight years, is at the heart of the current appeal. 

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Prosecutors two months ago month urged Ohio Supreme Court justices to overturn the most recent decision by the Ohio 2nd District Court of Appeals that, if allowed to stand, would lead to a reduction in Christian’s prison sentence.

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Christian’s attorney, Brock Schoenlein, argued in his legal brief that Christian has essentially already served the full sentence of some of the lesser counts against her, and the trial court and prosecutors are trying to force her to serve some of that prison time again. 

“If the state of Ohio gets its way in this matter ... prosecutors and trial judges can exercise an unlimited number of ‘sentencing mulligans’ ... ,” Schoenlein wrote.

Eva Christian in June 2009 at Cafe Boulevard. Staff File Photo by Jim Witmer

“Eva was literally being forced to serve one of her sentences twice. We  had a bit of a problem with that,” Schoenlein told this news outlet earlier this year.

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Schoenlein’s argument was at least successful enough to convince the state’s highest court to take another look — but just barely. Online state records show that the vote to accept the case for review was 4 to 3.