I was reticent to make a post of this incident, but it is probably necessary. This afternoon, Jake Stoneburner was arrested by Shawnee Hills’ police in neighboring Delaware County, Ohio and charged with obstruction of official business. He is out of jail on bond as of writing.
The charge is a curious one. Nominally in the same family as the more serious charge of obstruction of justice, the criminal definition of obstruction of official business is very general. Indeed, any interference with the duties of a “public official” (e.g. police officer, firefighter, EMT, postal worker) is sufficient for this criminal charge. Mostly a misdemeanor charge, obstructing official business is a felony charge if the purposeful “act” (as opposed to “non-act”) results in bodily harm of a third party.
(A) No person, without privilege to do so and with purpose to prevent, obstruct, or delay the performance by a public official of any authorized act within the public official’s official capacity, shall do any act that hampers or impedes a public official in the performance of the public official’s lawful duties.
(B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of obstructing official business. Except as otherwise provided in this division, obstructing official business is a misdemeanor of the second degree. If a violation of this section creates a risk of physical harm to any person, obstructing official business is a felony of the fifth degree.
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll note that I’ve listed a lot of curious cases of this criminal charge. ”Obstructing official business” runs the gamut from traffic-related offenses to, essentially, obstruction of justice. Here are some pertinent examples.
State v. Stayton (1998), 126 Ohio App. 3d 158 — Defendant fed expired parking meters ahead of officer writing tickets. Obstructing official business conviction upheld. See dissent, finding officer’s work was not hampered, since he could still write tickets, and characterizing the defendant’s offense as “aggravated foolishness.”
Dayton v. Esrati (1997), 125 Ohio App. 3d 60 — Disrupting a lawful meeting and other charges were properly dismissed where city could not show its actions were not directed at the communicative nature of the defendant’s conduct. Defendant quietly donned a ninja mask during city council meeting to protest proposal to reduce public participation.
State v. Collins (1993), 88 Ohio App. 3d 291 — Refusal to provide name to building and zoning inspector did not amount to obstructing official business, but bumping him with a truck did.
State v. Ternes (1998), 92 Ohio Misc. 2d 76 — Telling an officer he was out of his jurisdiction, driving at 20 mph, and failing to immediately stop when beacon was activated did not constitute obstructing official business. Cop gave 67-year old who had had recent heart surgery a hard time.
State v. Wolf (1996), 111 Ohio App. 3d 774 — Disturbing a lawful meeting and obstructing official business convictions upheld where defendant, protesting procedure at a county board of health meeting, took a seat at the board meeting table, refused to leave and read a prepared statement.
Columbus v. Nichols (1986), 29 Ohio App. 3d 281 — Conviction upheld where an intoxicated nurse interfered with efforts of emergency squadsmen. Paramedics found to be “public officials” within the meaning of the obstructing official business ordinance. Also see State v. Anderson (1976), 46 Ohio St. 2d 219 (Interference in arrest of friend, albeit arrest was of dubious legality.).
Columbus v. Michel (1978), 55 Ohio App. 2d 46 — Defendant’s failure to open the door to his apartment to police officers who beat on it for ten minutes before forcing entry was not obstructing official business. Statute requires an act and does not reach failures to act.
State v. McCrone (1989), 63 Ohio App. 3d 831 — Obstructing official business conviction reversed where defendant refused to produce a drivers’ license as identification upon demand of officer. Compare Waynesville v. Combs (1990), 66 Ohio App. 3d 292 where it seems to have been accepted that the driver of a car stopped for a traffic offense could be charged with obstructing official business after she refused to produce her license.
The list goes on. This is a very general charge.
The hope is, for this Buckeye fan (at least), that Stoneburner was not being a total jerk to the “public official” (likely the arresting officer). I doubt whatever Stoneburner (allegedly) did was “serious”, but the hope is that Stoneburner’s behavior is in line with what is expected from a guy in his very visible position. It’s one thing to argue with a meter reader about a potential parking ticket, which can (and has) resulted in an arrest on this charge (e.g. State of Ohio v. Stayton, 1998). It’s another thing to be a total ass about it, something I hope isn’t the case.
The obvious caveats of “innocent until proven guilty” clearly apply. We’ll obviously find out more going forward.
Tight end Jake Stoneburner and offensive lineman Jack Mewhort were arrested at about 9:30 a.m. by the Shawnee Hills police near the Bogey Inn, 10TV News reported.
A third man, Austin Barnard, was also charged. He is not affiliated with the football program.
Police told 10TV News that two officers saw the three men who they believed were urinating between buildings. The officers attempted to talk with them but they ran away.
Two of them were captured while they were crouched in between vehicles, police said. The third person was found hiding in nearby woods after officers threatened to use a police dog.