Appeal of Glouster Man’s Conviction Connected To Reversed Case

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Sentenced to a mandatory five-year prison term, a Glouster man convicted of gross sexual imposition is appealing his prison sentence and believes new case law will help his appeal.

Thomas Shifflet, 78, was found guilty by a jury in Athens County Common Pleas Court of gross sexual imposition. He was acquitted of sexual imposition and the jury could not reach a decision on two other counts of gross sexual imposition and a rape charge.

He later changed his plea on the undecided charges to that of no contest on the two other counts of gross sexual imposition. The agreement contained the stipulation that the rape charge be amended to gross sexual imposition as well, with Shifflet entering an “Alford” plea to that charge.

He did not admit to any wrongdoing, but acknowledged that sufficient evidence exists that could convince a jury of the hung counts.

Then-judge Michael Ward sentenced Shifflet to the mandatory term of five years in prison for the amended gross sexual imposition charge and the three others, including the one he was convicted of March 19. As part of the agreement, he will serve the maximum prison sentences for each charge concurrently.

In a document filed with the court in mid-February, Shifflet’s attorney, Columbus-based public defender Peter Galyardt uses the decision in the recent case involving Damon L. Bevly decided by the Ohio Supreme Court to help bolster his appeal.

Galyardt challenges the mandatory sentence of Shifflet, urging the court to apply the Bevly case and vacate the mandatory sentence for Shifflet.

In the Bevly case, corroborating evidence was used to sentence him to a longer prison term according to the case file.

“The state maintains that (Ohio Revised Code) has a rational basis, in that it imposes more punishment on an offender when there is more evidence of guilt. But once an accused has been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of an offense, the quantity of evidence is irrelevant to the sentence,” according to the opinion by Justice Judith Lanzinger.

Bevly’s case was reversed and remanded to the lower court.

In Shifflet’s case, it is being argued that evidence presented after the guilty plea and prior to the sentence factored into the maximum mandatory sentence.

In an appeal brief filed last fall, Galyardt argued that Shifflet’s due process rights were violated when the trial court accepted an “unknowing, unintelligent and involuntary guilty plea.”

The appeal also argued that Shifflet was convicted “against the manifest weight of the evidence,” and that his due process rights were also violated when the court allowed a “designated support person” for a closed-circuit television testimony of the victim to testify as a witness.