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Trespassing? Burglar argues for open-house loophole

A man accused of burglary at real estate open houses argued in court that it’s not trespassing when homes are open to the public.

A burglary conviction requires the proof of trespassing.

However, an appeals court judge in Ohio this week tossed out the man’s argument, upholding the burglary convictions of a lower court. The judge said that Michael L. Shipley did trespass at the real estate open houses because he used deception to enter the homes.

“We find a reasonable jury could infer that [Shipley] had the intent upon entering the homes to commit a criminal offense and gained access to the homes through exercising deceit,” the judge wrote. Shipley “deceived the [real estate professionals] by withholding information and feigning interest in the homes.”

Shipley has been accused of distracting real estate professionals during five open houses that took place in August 2011. Agents allege that he would distract them with small talk or physically place himself in the line of sight to obstruct their view while a female accomplice would enter bedrooms and steal jewelry at five open houses.

In September 2111, Shipley was convicted on five counts of burglary and three counts of theft. He has been on house arrest while appealing the court’s decision.
Following the recent ruling, prosecutors filed a motion to order Shipley to begin serving the 12-year prison sentence a judge had ordered last fall. However, Shipley’s attorney has asked for another delay in the sentence while he and his client appeal the judge’s decision to the Ohio Supreme Court.

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