After deliberating for nearly two hours, a jury handed down a guilty verdict against a Hillsboro man indicted for three counts of forgery earlier this year in Highland County Common Pleas Court.
In a case that Judge Rocky Coss described as “bizarre,” the jury found that Shawn E. Ervin, 42, submitted a fraudulent court document with a plagiarized signature to a Franklin County court in a custody case he had lost.
According to testimony in the trial, the document asked the Franklin County court to acknowledge a ruling in Ervin’s favor from a lower court in Leesburg, although multiple witnesses testified that no such court exists.
Witnesses said the document contained the signature of Chris Runyon, saying he was a court official, and was notarized by his wife, Alyssa Teeters-Runyon, who works in the Highland County Clerk of Courts office.
While on the stand, Ervin testified that Chris Runyon, who was formerly his employer and was recently elected to a second term on Leesburg Village Council, had commiserated with him over the custody case and offered to help by writing and signing the court entry.
Runyon testified that he never signed the document or offered to help Ervin, and Teeters-Runyon said she never notarized such a document.
Both said they signed and notarized a lease agreement for Ervin to rent their garage, and Highland County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Jim Roeder argued throughout the trial that Ervin had copied the signature and notary stamp from the lease agreement and pasted it onto the court document.
Ervin and his wife, Jessica Van Ness, gave testimony that conflicted with Runyon and Teeters-Runyon’s statements regarding Runyon and Ervin’s relationship and the circumstances of the document’s creation.
Roeder said during his closing statement that much of the case centered around “who you believe,” and said Ervin was the only party who had a reason to be dishonest since he had admitted to filing the document in the first place. Roeder also said the fact that there is no court in Leesburg speaks for itself.
Lee Koogler, who represents Ervin, said in his closing argument that there was not enough evidence to suggest the document was forged.
Koogler told The Times-Gazette after the trial that he was disappointed in the jury’s decision, and said Ervin plans to appeal the decision after his sentencing.
“I’m disappointed… but we have to respect it,” Koogler said, adding that he suspects the jury had a lengthy deliberation because of the complicated nature of the case and a possibly incomplete presentation of facts.
“I think the jury had some questions both sides weren’t necessarily able to answer,” he said.
Roeder said he was pleased with the jury’s decision.
“I’m glad the jury took time to review the matter, and we’re happy with the outcome,” he said.
Coss ordered a pre-sentence investigation to be conducted, as well as a mental health assessment for Ervin, who claimed to be on the autism spectrum.
He will be sentenced Jan. 3 at 9 a.m.
Highland County Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins said Ervin will likely not be sentenced to prison for the crime, since House Bill 86 prevents judges from sending low-level felony offenders to prison if they have no prior criminal record.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.