Prosecutors blast restaurant owner’s latest attempt to cut prison time

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Eva Christian renews her fight to get prison sentence reduced

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A panel of appeals-court judges will hear oral arguments Aug. 22 in the latest attempt by former Dayton restaurant owner Eva Christian to shorten her prison sentence — an attempt that Montgomery County prosecutors are vigorously opposing.

Christian owned and operated Cafe Boulevard (later Boulevard Haus) in Dayton’s Oregon District for 15 years. The criminal case involved 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 in front of the Dayton Mall in Miami Twp.

RELATED: 7 things to know about Eva Christian and why she’s in prison

Through her court-appointed attorney, Brock Schoenlein, Christian’s most recent appeal claims that Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Barbara P. Gorman exceeded her authority when she re-imposed Christian’s nine-year sentence a year ago, in July 2016. In the most recent legal filings in the long-running criminal case, county prosecutors blasted Christian’s attempt to get out of prison early.

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Eva Christian in June 2009 at what was then her Oregon District restaurant, Cafe Boulevard. Staff file photo by Jim Witmer

Eva Christian in June 2009 at what was then her Oregon District restaurant, Cafe Boulevard. Staff file photo by Jim Witmer

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Eva Christian in June 2009 at what was then her Oregon District restaurant, Cafe Boulevard. Staff file photo by Jim Witmer

Judge Gorman, when she re-sentenced Christian, “addressed how Christian had no regard for other people’s lives or well-being but her own,” Heather Jans, an assistant Montgomery County prosecutor, wrote in her appeals brief. “Christian lied on the stand during trial and claimed everybody else was lying … she hired someone to shoot up her house while her son was still inside the home … (and) hired someone to blow up her restaurant … .

“Based on the trial court’s statements at sentencing, as well as all the evidence presented during the trial, the record supports the (original nine-year) sentence,” Jans wrote.

RELATED: How a local restaurateur fell from grace

Convicted of five insurance fraud-related charges in 2012, Christian has already served more than five years of her nine-year sentence in the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville.

Since her conviction, her appeals have bounced back and forth multiple times among the Ohio Supreme Court, the Ohio 2nd District Court of Appeals, and Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. In some instances, the appeals have resulted in rulings favorable to her position, but those rulings have not succeeded in reducing her nine-year sentence, nor have they overturned her convictions entirely.

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Eva Christian at her original sentencing in 2012. Staff file photo by Jim Witmer

Eva Christian at her original sentencing in 2012. Staff file photo by Jim Witmer

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Eva Christian at her original sentencing in 2012. Staff file photo by Jim Witmer

The multiple appeals succeeded on one front — the severity of some of the charges on which Christian was convicted was reduced — but those decisions did not result in a corresponding reduction in her punishment when she appeared before Judge Gorman for re-sentencing last year.

RELATED:Eva Christian wanted to 'blow up' Dayton Mall restaurant

Gorman’s decision to re-impose the original nine-year sentence despite the reduction in the severity of some of the charges is at the heart of Christian’s current appeal before the Ohio 2nd District Court of Appeals. Christian contends that Gorman overstepped her legal authority by re-applying the same sentence; prosecutors say she was well within her legal authority to reimpose a nine-year prison stay.

If the appeals-court judges agree that the re-imposed sentence was contrary to Ohio law, it could send the case back to Gorman for re-sentencing, with Christian’s potential maximum sentence lowered to eight years, Schoenlein told this news outlet in February, when he filed the appeal on Christian’s behalf.

A panel of three appeals-court judges will rule on the case sometime after the Aug. 22 oral arguments.

RELATED: Restaurant owner renews fight to get prison sentence reduced (February 2017)

At her re-sentencing hearing in July 2016, Christian told the judge she was sorry for the pain she caused family, friends and the employees of her restaurants, whom she said she also considered family. She said she didn’t realize four years earlier how much impact her actions would have on those close to her.

“It has consumed me and is haunting me every day,” Christian said. She urged the judge, “Please give me a chance to be a law-abiding citizen.”

Gorman was not persuaded. The judge noted that Christian tearfully pleaded for leniency four years earlier in the very same courtroom — only at that time, she was still firmly denying that she was guilty of any of the charges against her.

“I don’t know if you’ve really made a change, or if you’re a really good actress,” Judge Gorman told Christian.

Whenever she is freed, Christian — who was born in Croatia and raised in Germany, and has German citizenship — faces potential deportation, Montgomery County prosecutors have said.

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