Defendant was an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tallahassee, Florida. She had a tense relationship with the complainant – Lieutenant Stanford who was a correctional officer there. Stanford had accused her of using a broken broomstick in a fight. There was a hearing regarding her involvement in the fight. When defendant encountered the claimant outside the hearing room she began to verbally attack Stanford. The latter ordered her to cuff up and she disobeyed. Before Stanford touched her, he tripped and fell to the ground, apparently through no fault of the defendant.
The US Court of Appeal affirmed the conviction.
A person commits simple assault if he/she :
– forcibly assaults, resists, opposes, impedes, intimidates, or interferes with any person designated in 18 U.S.C.S. § 1114 while engaged in or on account of the performance of official duties; or
– forcibly assaults or intimidates any person who formerly served as a person designated in 18 U.S.C.S. § 1114 on account of the performance of official duties during such person’s term of service.
A person receives enhanced penalty (i.e. up to 20 years of imprisonment) for aforementioned acts if he/she (a) uses a deadly or dangerous weapon (incl. a weapon intended to cause death or danger but that fails to do so by reason of a defective component) or (b) inflicts bodily injury under 18 U.S.C.S. § 111.
(1) whether the defendant was guilty of forcible assault on a federal officer under 18 U.S.C.S. § 111 based upon actions taken by her while she was a federal inmate; and (2) whether the jury instructions misstate the law or mislead the jury to the prejudice of the objecting party.
The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has defined simple assault as “common law” assault: “a willful attempt to inflict injury upon the person of another, or a threat to inflict injury upon the person of another which, when coupled with an apparent present ability, causes a reasonable apprehension of immediate bodily harm.”
According to the Court a forcible assault is more grievous act than the simple assault and enhanced brutality featuring it relates to a willful attempt or threat to inflict serious bodily injury. Such an act must couple with an actual ability to cause a reasonable apprehension of immediate serious bodily injury or death. In this regard physical contact was considered sufficient ground to reset simple assault as forcible assault under 18 U.S.C.S. § 111 even though it did not result in actual corporal injury.
“The jury instruction provided that defendant could be convicted of forcible assault only upon proof of a simple assault plus physical contact. This instruction contained a correct statement of the law, and thus, a reversal of the conviction was not warranted…when the jury instructions, taken together, accurately express the law applicable to the case without confusing or prejudicing the jury, there is no reason for reversal even though isolated clauses may, in fact, be confusing, technically imperfect, or otherwise subject to criticism”