Re-sentencing hearing set for former Dayton restaurant owner Eva Christian

Former Oregon District and Dayton Mall restaurant owner Eva Christian has served more than eight years of a nine-year prison sentence in part for her actions on Christmas Eve 2009, when she set her own Miami Twp. restaurant on fire as part of a scheme to collect insurance money. But in July, Christian won an appeals-court ruling that could set her free early, sometime before her scheduled release date of May 8, 2021.

That re-sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 24, at 1:30 p.m., said Brock Schoenlein, Christian’s court-appointed attorney who has handled all of her appeals following her initial conviction and sentencing

“The war for Eva Christian’s release is finally over,” Schoenlein told the Dayton Daily News after the July 24 appeals court ruling. “Eva will be released as quickly as she can be brought back to court.”

Christian was convicted in 2012 of five criminal counts following a two-week jury trial, and her appeals of those convictions have traveled a complex and circuitous route up and down the state’s legal chain, from Montgomery County Common Pleas Court to the Ohio 2nd District Court of Appeals to the Ohio Supreme Court.

The July 24 decision was issued by a three-judge panel of the Ohio 2nd District Court of Appeals. In a 2-1 decision, the appeals court ruled that Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Barbara Gorman, who presided over the 2012 trial, improperly re-sentenced Christian to her original nine-year sentence even after earlier appeals had reduced the severity of three of the five charges Christian was convicted on.

Credit: Jim Witmer

Credit: Jim Witmer

Christian founded and owned the now-defunct Cafe Boulevard (later Boulevard Haus) for nearly 15 years in Dayton’s Oregon District. The space is now Lily’s. Christian also founded and owned Cena Brazilian Steakhouse in Miami Twp. She was convicted in 2012 of masterminding a scheme in 2009 to hire others to set Cena on fire, and later trying to set it on fire herself, and of staging a break-in at her Washington Twp. residence, all in order to collect insurance money.

Credit: for USA TODAY

Credit: for USA TODAY

It’s not clear what will happen to the former restaurant owner when she is released from prison. Montgomery County prosecutors have said they will seek to have her deported upon release, although that deportation decision will be made by federal authorities. Although she has lived in the U.S. for decades, Christian is not an American citizen. She was born in Croatia and raised in Germany, and has German citizenship, although she was considered a “permanent resident” of the U.S. after marrying a U.S. citizen. The couple later divorced.

Testimony by prosecution witnesses during the 2012 trial suggested that Christian conspired three years earlier with two accomplices in the break-in of her home and in the 2009 restaurant vandalism.

Prosecutors have said Judge Gorman was within her legal rights to re-impose the original sentence. But in an opinion written by appeals court judge Mary E. Donovan and joined by Jeffrey E. Froelich and filed July 24, the court of appeals concluded that Gorman had abused her legal discretion when she re-sentenced Christian to nine years in prison after the severity of Christian’s crimes had been lessened, given that no new facts had been presented in court.

“This case marks the most litigation that I have ever seen surrounding just one year of someone’s life,” Schoenlein, Christian’s appeals attorney, said after the July ruling. “But if that one year in dispute was of my own life, I would certainly never want my attorney to abandon that fight.”

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