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Imprisoned restaurant owner should serve full sentence, prosecutors say

Imprisoned Dayton restaurant owner Eva Christian, who is serving a nine-year sentence for insurance fraud-related charges, should serve her entire term, Montgomery County prosecutors have told the Ohio Supreme Court in Christian’s long-running appeal of her conviction.

In a legal brief filed by Assistant Montgomery County Prosecutor Heather Jans, local prosecutors urged Ohio Supreme Court justices to overturn the most recent decision by the Ohio 2nd District Court of Appeals that would lead to a reduction in Christian’s prison sentence.

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Christian’s court-appointed attorney for the appeals case, Brock Schoenlein, will file a response to the prosecutor’s argument before the state’s highest court decides the case.

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And it won’t be the first time the justices will have examined the complicated case. In May, and by the narrowest of margins, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed to take its fourth look at the case of the former Dayton restaurant owner, whose criminal case has spent more than seven years in the judicial system.

>> RELATED: 7 things to know about Eva Christian and why she’s in prison

Christian — who owned and operated Cafe Boulevard (later Boulevard Haus) in Dayton’s Oregon District for 15 years — has spent the last six years and two months in the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville.  She is serving a nine-year sentence for multiple felony and misdemeanor convictions related to insurance fraud.

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The legal issue that the supreme court is considering 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.

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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.

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.

Eva Christian in June 2009 at Cafe Boulevard. Staff File Photo by Jim Witmer

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.

>> RELATED: Prosecutors appeal Eva Christian decision to Supreme Court

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.

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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.

RELATED: Appeals court reduces restaurateur Eva Christian’s prison sentence

The appeals court ordered Judge Gorman to re-sentence Christian in line with its decision. But after prosecutors convinced the Ohio Supreme Court to re-examine the case, the judge put that re-sentencing on hold until the state’s highest court decides the most recent appeal. 

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