WAS THE EVIDENCE SUFFICIENT TO UPHOLD THE TEACHER’S CONVICTION?
Case citation: Ohonba v. State of Texas, 2013 WL 1283225 (Tex. App. – Dallas 2013) (unpublished).
Summary: Isaac Ohonba, a teacher for the Dallas Independent School District, was indicted for the offense of making a false statement to a law enforcement employee. The indictment was related to statements he made alleging that five students assaulted him on campus. After a trial, the court found him guilty and assessed punishment at 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. The court suspended the punishment and placed Ohonba on community supervision for 12 months. Ohonba appealed, arguing that the evidence was legally insufficient. Specifically, he claimed that the indictment incorrectly indicated that the statements were made to a law enforcement officer, when the alleged false statement was actually made to a civilian employee of the Dallas ISD Police Department.
Ruling: The appeals court affirmed Ohonba’s conviction for making a false statement to a law enforcement employee. The record showed that one morning while on campus, Ohonba reported that five students assaulted him on campus, causing him to fall and injure his head. He was taken to the hospital. A district police employee and a police sergeant went to the hospital to take Ohonba’s statement. They introduced themselves to Ohonba and asked to take his statement. The employee offered to write the statement for Ohonba because he was injured. She did so, and after making a few corrections Ohonba signed the statement. The following day, Ohonba provided another similar statement to the officer assigned to investigate the matter. Based on these statements, Ohonba applied for and received assault leave from the district.
Conflicting evidence from one of the students indicated that Ohonba was walking with the student, when he slipped and fell, which caused him to hit his head on a tree. The investigating officer concluded that Ohonba’s statement was false, which lead to his indictment. The indictment quoted both statements but only named the investigating officer as the employee receiving the report. Ohonba, therefore, argued that the indictment was improper because it did not provide adequate notice to prepare his case because only the investigating officer was identified and not the employee who took the original statement.
The appeals court disagreed and held that any variance in the name of employees in the indictment did not warrant reversal of his conviction. The false statement was made to a law enforcement employee who was authorized to take the statement. Further, Ohonba knew the employee was conducting the investigation. The employee identified herself and asked to take his statement in the hospital. He agreed to do so and signed the statement written for him by the employee. The appeals court, therefore, upheld Ohonba’s conviction for providing a false statement to a law enforcement employee.