ST. MARYS — Appeals judges in Lima reduced the felony conviction for gross sexual imposition of Doug Wine late Monday morning.
In a ruling issued by the judges from the Third District Court of Appeals, Wine's conviction for gross sexual imposition, a fourth-degree felony, has been reduced to a third-degree misdemeanor of sexual imposition. The case has been remanded to Auglaize County Common Pleas Court.
Wine was convicted last year of gross sexual imposition following a trial. Jurors found Wine not guilty of rape and sexual battery. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison on the fourth-degree felony charge. He faced a maximum of 18 months in prison.
In February, judges from the Third District Court of Appeals stayed Wine's sentence pending his appeal. They also ordered him held on a $150,000 appeals bond while his case went through the court process. Attorneys from both sides appeared in Lima for oral arguments in May.
"Since the state presented insufficient evidence that Wine purposely compelled the victim to submit to the sexual contact by force or threat of force, we vacate Wine’s conviction and sentence for gross sexual imposition in violation of R.C. 2907.05(A)(1)," the judges wrote in their ruling. "Nevertheless, since the state presented sufficient evidence to demonstrate a violation of the lesser-included offense of sexual imposition in violation of R.C. 2907.06(A)(1), we remand this matter to the trial court to enter a finding of guilt and to sentence Wine on that offense."
Lorin Zaner, Wine's attorney, applauded the judges' decision to reduce the charge, but noted it fell short of what he was looking for on behalf of his client.
"I'm not totally pleased," Zaner told The Evening Leader Monday afternoon. "We were hoping for a straight reversal so we'd have the chance to retry the case. There are still some additional things we will do that may give us that opportunity in the future. We are glad it was reduced to a misdemeanor, but not glad it was not thrown out."
Zaner said it is possible he could seek post-conviction relief or appeal the ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Auglaize County Prosecuting Attorney Ed Pierce said he is still in the process of reviewing the judges’ decision.
“There is some conflict across the state of Ohio on force as it’s applied to this type of fact pattern,” Pierce told The Evening Leader Tuesday morning. “At this point, the court will schedule a hearing on the remand and in the meantime, we will be weighing our options as to what we will do.”
Pierce said an appeal is an option.
“That’s an option you always consider,” Pierce said. “I’ll be fully evaluating the assignment of error and will make a determination if we wish to pursue and apply for a certification of conflict from the Third District Court of Appeals.”