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Ohio Supreme Court Orders Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to Revise Calculation of Prisoner’s Sentence

DRC prisoner Charles Fraley pleaded guilty to multiple aggravated robberies. In Cause No. 11CR-403, he was sentenced to seven years for aggravated robbery consecutive to three years for a firearm specification and “Concurrent to Case No. 11CR-1129.” In Case No. 11CR-1129, he was sentenced to five years for aggravated robbery without a firearm specification concurrent to seven years for another aggravated robbery count consecutive to three years for a firearm specification.

Using the plain language of the sentencing entries in the court’s journal, Fraley concluded his total sentence should be 10 years. The DRC calculated his sentence as 13 years so, aided by attorney Sarah M. Schregardus of Kura, Wilford & Schregardus, Fraley filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the Ohio Supreme Court.

The DRC based its calculation on Ohio R.C. 2929.14(C)(a), which states that a sentence for a firearm specification must be served consecutively to and prior to the sentence imposed for the underlying felony and also “consecutive to any other prison term or mandatory prison term previously or subsequently imposed upon the offender.” Thus, the DRC concluded, Fraley’s sentence must be 13 years since the two three-year firearm specification sentences cannot be served concurrently.

The court concluded that the DRC’s calculation is legally correct, but that does not resolve the matter. It held that a statute requiring sentences to be served consecutively controls when the sentencing entry is silent on how the sentences are to be served. However, in this case, the sentencing entry is not silent.

The court held that the DRC had “a clear duty to carry out the sentence that the trial court imposed” as expressed in its journal entries. “If the entries contained a legal error favoring Fraley, then the state should have appealed the error. But it failed to do so. DRC’s role is not to correct a sentencing court’s errors and impose the sentence it believes the court should have imposed. To the contrary, DRC is obliged to execute the sentence imposed by the court.”

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Related legal case

State ex rel. Fraley v. Ohio Dep’t of Rehab. & Corr.