The Ohio 2nd District Court of Appeals issued a ruling this morning, Friday Oct. 20, that — if it stands — will reduce the length of imprisoned former Dayton restaurant owner Eva Christian’s sentence.
The ruling will not result in Christian’s immediate release from the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, where she has served more than five years of what was a nine-year prison sentence for insurance fraud-related charges. The case will now return to the trial court judge, Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Barbara P. Gorman, for re-sentencing that is in alignment with the appeals-court judges’ ruling.
>> RELATED: How a local restaurateur fell from grace
That ruling shaves a year off Christian’s maximum sentence.
If Judge Gorman imposes the maximum eight-year sentence, Christian would still have to serve nearly three more years before release, with a projected release date of May 2020, according to Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections records.
The Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office has said it will urge federal officials to deport Christian whenever she is released from prison. Christian was born in Croatia and raised in Germany, and has German citizenship.
The appeals court judges agreed with Christian’s court-appointed post-conviction attorney, Brock Schoenlein, that Judge Gorman exceeded her authority when she re-imposed a nine-year sentence to Christian after the severity of some of the five felony counts Christian was convicted of was reduced on appeal. Montgomery County prosecutors had argued that the judge was well within her sentencing rights and urged appeals-court judges to keep Christian’s nine-year sentence intact.
Prosecutors have the option of challenging the appeals court ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court. A spokesman for the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office said late Friday that prosecutors were reviewing the court of appeals decision and would decide within the next few days whether to challenge it.
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. A jury convicted Christian in 2012 of five counts related to insurance fraud and running a crime ring.
>> RELATED: Restaurant owner renews fight to get prison sentence reduced (February 2017)
The appeal of Christian’s conviction has taken a slow and circuitous path through the courts, bouncing among the Ohio Supreme Court, the 2nd Court of Appeals and Montgomery County Common Pleas court multiple times.
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.