Former Marion Common Pleas Judge Jason Warner and his wife, Julia, have until 8 a.m. Friday to report to the Marion County Sheriff's Office to return to prison after the Ohio Third District Court of Appeals upheld both of their convictions in a hit-and-run crash.
Court records say that on June 4, 2020, Julia was driving the Warner's Jeep Wrangler with Jason in the passenger seat when she attempted to make a left turn and hit a car driven by then-19-year-old Colton Gray, who was injured in the crash that sent his car into a utility pole.
Gray said he has undergone months of physical and mental therapy to recover from the accident, including kidney damage and issues with memory loss due to a severe concussion. Gray said he struggled with walking and running, being a passenger in a vehicle and developed Bell's Palsy for brief period.
The Warners have been out on bond since April during the appeals of their two felony convictions.
According to reports, Jason will be sent to the Lorain Correctional Facility while Julia will return to the Ohio Reformatory for Women at Marysville, where she was held prior to being released on bail. They will serve a two-year, concurrently-served prison sentence.
The appeals court found that enough evidence was presented to convict both Jason and Julia, and further, the court found that no prejudice was at play, and thus a mistrial did not happen during the original court trial in March.
After the Third District Court of Appeals released its decision, the court also uploaded a 36-page document detailing the events, arguments and decisions that led to the conviction being upheld.
In their findings, the three judges — judges William Zimmerman, Brownyn Miller and Stephen Shaw — wrote that it was important to note the crash was caused by Julia, that both Warners exited the vehicle to view the damage, and they both left the scene despite the damage they'd witnessed.
Because this was deemed "essentially undisputed," the judges said the primary issue to solve was whether sufficient evidence was presented to find Jason guilty of aiding and abetting. "We find that a rational trier of fact could determine as much beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus Jason's arguments related to Complicity to Failure to Stop After an Accident are not well-taken," the judges wrote.
"...Jason was not merely in the Jeep as a passenger while this event occurred. He got out of the Jeep, viewed the wreckage, then decided to get back into the vehicle," the three judges determined.
The court also noted that Jason lied to Judge W.T. Edwards in the aftermath of the crash and said he was asleep when the crash occurred as a way of "minimizing his conduct."
The appeals court said it's nearly undisputed that the Warners left the scene and that it's a permissible inference that they knew an investigation would occur given the magnitude of the crash. And since the Warners fled the scene, law enforcement testified during trial that this hindered their ability to investigate, because they couldn't conduct field sobriety tests or examine how the crash occurred since only one vehicle was present at the scene.
Following the crash, the court noted, the Warners got out of their vehicle and then quickly returned to it. The Warners then made a five-mile drive to return to their home in Marion, despite their Jeep being severely damaged — including a driver-side tire being nearly ripped off the rim.
According to a statement written by Julia for the Ohio State Highway Patrol, she admitted to panicking and driving away from the crash.
While the Warners filed a police report, it didn't happen until nine hours after the crash. As a result, law enforcement officers on the scene were unable to conduct field sobriety tests to see whether alcohol was at play. Throughout the trial, it was noted in testimony that the Warners had been at separate get-togethers on the night of the crash, at which both consumed an unspecified amount of alcohol before meeting up and driving home.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Former Marion County judge and wife off to prison in hit-and-run case