IN THE NEWS

Simple vs. Aggravated Assault – Sean “Diddy” Combs & the Kettle Bell

Yesterday, LAPD arrested Sean Combs on assault with a deadly weapon charges. The incident involved Mr. Combs, a kettle bell, and a strength and conditioning coach in a gym at UCLA where Mr. Combs’ son plays football for the University.

Kettlebell

There are still very few details about what actually occurred in the gym but the allegations were strong enough for police to arrest and hold him on $160,000.00 bail before he quickly posted it. This case presents a good opportunity to discuss the difference between simple and aggravated assault.

 

In Pennsylvania a person commits a simple assault when he or she attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another person. Simple assault is also committed if an individual negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon or attempts, by “physical menace” to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury. See §2701(a).

 

Pennsylvania defines bodily injury as “the impairment of a physical condition or substantial pain.” See §2301. It defines “Serious Bodily Injury” as an injury that creates substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or loss or impairment the function of any bodily member or organ. A person can commit a simple assault if he or she acts recklessly or intentionally. While a threat can constitute an assault, the law requires that the actor be in a position to actually carry out the threat immediately or that he takes some affirmative steps to do it. In Pennsylvania the law looks at the defendant’s intent and whether the result of that intent or reckless act is reasonably foreseeable. The victim’s state of mind is irrelevant. See Comm. v. Torres, 564Pa.219 (2001). Surprisingly pointing an unloaded gun can be considered a simple assault as is the act of brandishing a screwdriver. The act of swinging a kettle bell could also be considered a simple assault. It all depends on the circumstances.

 

Physical contact itself is not enough to establish a simple assault because the prosecution must establish either an injury for the defendant’s menacing behavior. See Comm. v. Scott, 246 Pa. Super (1976). Simple assault is a lesser included offense of aggravated assault and merges with aggravated assault for the purposes of sentencing if both crimes occur during the same incident and against the same victim. Further, simple assault merges with robbery, rape, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, burglary, or a theft conviction where it occurs during the same act.

 

An aggravated assault occurs if a person attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another or causes serious bodily injury intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life. Aggravated assault also occurs if a person intentionally or knowingly causes bodily injury to certain individuals such as police officers, district attorneys, EMS, or other individuals of a certain classes. Aggravated assault can be a felony on the first degree or second degree depending on the degree of harm or attempted harm inflicted and/or the status of the victim (i.e. police officer, etc.).

 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has stated that an aggravated assault charge requires that a serious injury or death could occur as a result of the perpetrator’s actions. See Comm. v. O’Hanlon, 539 Pa.478(1995). A court, however, can find an aggravated assault even if the actual injury that results is not considered a serious one. If, for example, a person shoots at someone and only by good fortune the victim sustains a slight laceration from the bullet it’s still considered an aggravated assault.

 

While the law may be different in California, if Mr. Combs is prosecuted for aggravated assault, the prosecutor doesn’t have to necessarily prove that the victim sustained injury. A kettle bell can be a deadly because it’s a blunt object which can cause serious injury or death. The kettle bell alone however doesn’t mean that the aggravated assault charge will stand. Mr. Combs’s case will really depend on the circumstance surrounding the incident and the manner in which the kettle bell was used; if it was even used at all. Given that the alleged victim may have somewhat of a questionable past, you can be sure that Combs’ attorney will aggressively fight any charges but especially felony charges.

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