Prosecutors will ask the Ohio Supreme Court to reinstate the most serious felony conviction of former Dayton restaurant owner Eva Christian, who is serving a prison term for insurance fraud-related crimes.
The Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office filed a notice of appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court last week 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, said the appeals court’s June 20 decision would effectively cut in half the former restaurant owner’s nine-year prison sentence handed down following a 2012 trial.
The state’s highest court has not yet indicated whether it will consider the prosecutors’ appeal. The appeals court returned the case to Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Barbara P. Gorman for re-sentencing under the reduced charges, but that re-sentencing has not yet taken place.
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.
A spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said the agency has an active detainer on Christian, who could still 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.
Her attorney said the appeals court “followed clear precedent when issuing its decision” and said he “cannot agree with the government’s contention that this case is in need of further review.
“Nevertheless, if the Ohio Supreme Court accepts review of this case, we would welcome it,” Schoenlein said. “I have no reason to believe that the Ohio Supreme Court would view this case any differently than our court of appeals.”
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.
Testimony by prosecution witnesses during the trial suggested that Christian conspired with two accomplices in the break-in 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.
During her sentencing hearing in 2012, 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 prison, calling Christian “a dangerous person” and telling the former restaurant owner, “I don’t think you have a conscience.”