Carter Conviction Upheld by Ohio Supreme Court


COLUMBUS – Thursday morning, the Ohio Supreme Court announced it upheld the conviction of Eli Carter, a Bellefontaine man and former Adriel School teacher who was convicted of sexual battery. The Supreme Court’s decision noted that the appearance of a witness by video from Minnesota was improper given that the findings on the record were not specific enough to justify remote video testimony. However, the Supreme Court wrote that other evidence in the case was overwhelming and enough to sustain the conviction.

“We are pleased with the decision and glad that the victim was not denied her justice,”  said Prosecutor Eric Stewart.

Carter argued that the video testimony violated his constitutional right to confront witnesses. During oral arguments in the case before the Ohio Supreme Court, Samuel Shamansky, Carter’s attorney, admitted his client suffered no prejudice as cross-examination of the witness was not hindered by the video conferencing software, which by then was widespread courtroom use due to the COVID19 pandemic.

The victim, an adult when the case went to trial, testified she first met Carter when she was placed as a resident at Adriel School in West Liberty, where Carter was a “teaching parent.” Carter and his wife subsequently adopted her in 2007, then Carter began sexually abusing her. Carter threatened if she disclosed the abuse, “she wouldn’t have a family anymore.” Upon reaching adulthood, the victim reported the abuse to her adoptive mother, Carter’s brother, and Bellefontaine police in 2010, which notified Logan County Children’s Services. However, the Children’s Services case was closed because she was no longer a minor. In 2017, Detective Dwight Salyer of the Bellefontaine Police Department re-opened the investigation and obtained additional evidence which led to Carter’s indictment.

At trial, Mullins testified from Minnesota that Carter admitted that he had a sexual encounter with the victim, but downplayed the incident stating she was “of age.” Several other witnesses testified about the allegations including an admission by Carter to one of his friends. The Logan County jury convicted Carter of two counts of sexual battery.  The sexual battery statute prohibits sexual conduct with one’s natural or adopted child, regardless of the child’s age.

The Ohio Supreme Court’s opinion noted the Sixth Amendment challenge with a “confrontation clause” based on remote testimony would have been stronger if the record contained evidence and findings that specific weather and health risks for the witness necessitated remote testimony. In writing for the Supreme Court, Justice Patrick DeWine stated the primary purpose of the confrontation clause is to prevent unchallenged testimony from being used to convict a defendant. However, as the remaining evidence, without Mullins’ testimony, provided overwhelming proof of Carter’s guilt, the error was considered “harmless” as several witnesses corroborated the victim’s allegations.