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Published: Thursday, May 10, 2018 @ 8:02 AM
Updated: Thursday, May 10, 2018 @ 7:40 AM
— By the narrowest of margins, the Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to take another look — its fourth, in total — at the long-running case of former Dayton restaurant owner and current prison inmate Eva Christian, whose criminal case has spent more than seven years in the judicial system.
Christian — who owned and operated Cafe Boulevard (later Boulevard Haus) in Dayton’s Oregon District for 15 years — has spent nearly six years in the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville of her nine-year sentence for multiple felony and misdemeanor convictions related to insurance fraud.
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The legal issue that the supreme court has agreed to hear could potentially shave one year from Christian’s nine-year sentence, moving up her release date from its current May 8, 2021 to no later than May of 2020.
Montgomery County prosecutors brought charges against Christian in 2011, gained a conviction in 2012, and have worked to uphold the conviction and its full nine-year sentence ever since during a long and circuitous appeals process.
Earlier this year, prosecutors urged the state’s highest court to re-examine the decision handed down late last year by a three-judge panel of the Ohio 2nd District Court of Appeals that would effectively shorten Christian’s sentence from nine years to a maximum of eight years.
Prosecutors claimed the precedent that the appeals court decision set could have widespread impact on other cases. “The court of appeals has created bad law that could adversely affect numerous re-sentencing hearings,” Assistant Montgomery County Prosecutor Heather Jans wrote in the appeal.
Their arguments were successful on convincing 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.
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: a 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: Restaurant owner renews fight to get prison sentence reduced (February 2017)
A jury convicted Christian in 2012 of five counts related to insurance fraud, filing a false report and running a crime ring. Since then, her appeals have bounced among the court of appeals, the state supreme court and the trial court.
In the most recent appeals-court decision, judges ruled that Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Barbara P. Gorman exceeded her authority when she re-imposed the full, original nine-year sentence to Christian after the severity of some of the five felony charges on which Christian was convicted was reduced on appeal. Prosecutors had argued that the judge was well within her sentencing rights and had urged appeals-court judges to keep Christian’s nine-year sentence intact.
The former restaurant owner is scheduled to be re-sentenced by Judge Gorman in January. The prosecutor’s latest appeal has no immediate impact on the re-sentencing hearing, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office told this news outlet.