01 May 2004

Somebody attacked Justice Souter (in case somebody out there has head his head in the sand all day long) but law enforcement is being close-mouthed about what actually happened. About all that is being said is that he was not robbed, he was merely attacked while jogging, and he went to the hospital with minor injuries. Something's missing.

Waddling Thunder asks if I think the attackers might get prosecuted under USC 18-111.
Section 111. Assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers or employees

(a) In General. - Whoever -
(1) forcibly assaults, resists, opposes, impedes, intimidates, or interferes with any person designated in section 1114 of this title while engaged in or on account of the performance of official duties;
. . .
shall, where the acts in violation of this section constitute only simple assault, be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both, and in all other cases, be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
(b) Enhanced Penalty. - Whoever, in the commission of any acts described in subsection (a), uses a deadly or dangerous weapon including a weapon intended to cause death or danger but that fails to do so by reason of a defective component or inflicts bodily injury, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
Well, let me say that as a textualist and a believer in the rule of lenity, there's no way that I think a man out jogging is "engaged in" his "official [judicial] duties." However, when interpreting similar assault and battery statutes in Virginia judges have ruled consistently against me and held that this is a question for the finder of fact.

Personally, I think that charging this in the local D.C. courts would probably put the accused in more jeopardy. As I read this statute, if you beat someone up for any reason other than the pure joy of it you are in jeopardy for up to five years in prison rather than the one year under the federal statute.

: An Old Friend writes: "Don't read the "on account of" out of the statute; your interpretation of the statute would almost let anyone be free of prosecution under the statute so long as the judge wasn't on the bench or in chambers at the time of the assault or threat. If Souter was just a random victim, fine. But if the guys who beat him up were yelling "Free Padilla!" (or "Keep Padilla in the brig!") while they did so, it seems that 111 would apply."

No doubt. I didn't address the "on account of" language because there was no indication anything like the above occurred and, perhaps more importantly, because I really have a harder time picturing your average street thug type trying to shake down a Supreme Court Justice to influence appellate court decisions. Of course, that could just be a combination of assumptions and naivete on my part.

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