ELYRIA — The trial of Ramone Christian on a felony domestic violence charge was briefly delayed Thursday morning after prosecutors questioned whether his lawyer was legally able to practice law in Ohio.
Defense attorney Anthony Baker said he had waited until nearly the last minute to file his registration paperwork with the Ohio Supreme Court, something attorneys are required to do every few years, but his law license was always valid.
“Today is the deadline,” Baker said after the trial Thursday. “I paid yesterday at 4:04 p.m.”
Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said his office only raised the issue because they wanted to avoid potential problems at a later date if Christian is convicted and appeals.
“We were going to raise it before the trial so it didn’t become an issue,” Will said.
The case against Christian, which centers on allegations he beat his girlfriend, Valerie Buska, on May 24, has already caused friction between Baker and Assistant County Prosecutor Nick Hanek.
In the weeks before the trial, Baker accused Hanek of threatening to charge Buska with a crime if she didn’t testify or changed her story. He also had complained that Hanek told Buska he feared for her safety based on Christian’s extensive criminal record.
Hanek countered that he hadn’t done anything improper and that Baker himself may have engaged in misconduct by demanding a plea bargain for Christian or he would file motions accusing Hanek of intimidating a witness. Baker has insisted he wasn’t threatening Hanek.
Baker withdrew his complaint against Hanek before the start of the trial and said later that he didn’t intend to ask for a disciplinary review in the case. Will said he couldn’t comment on whether his office planned to seek a review of Baker’s conduct.
Christian, who is already serving a five-year prison sentence in several unrelated cases, has denied that he attacked Buska, but during Thursday’s trial several people who live near Middle Avenue and 10th Street in Elyria testified they saw the beating.
“I saw a man kicking a woman in the head and dragging her down the sidewalk,” Matthew Kirsch told county Common Pleas Judge Raymond Ewers, who will decide the case instead of a jury.
Penny Rockwell, who lives in a nearby house, testified that her family heard the attack and that Buska pounded on their door seeking help.
After police arrested Christian, who had run across the street after Rockwell’s husband yelled out he’d called police, she let Buska in, Rockwell said.
On the 911 tape, a sobbing Buska can be heard identifying Christian as her attacker.
Hanek said that there was evidence that Buska was attacked, including her disheveled appearance and a bloody finger. She also told police that Christian had attacked her.
Baker has argued that Buska later recanted that story, saying she had fallen down during an argument. She wanted the charges dropped, but prosecutors refused.
Ewers said he will issue a verdict after reviewing the evidence in the case.