Assault By Anxiety Attack

Assault requires someone “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” either cause bodily harm to someone or “reasonably fear imminent bodily injury.” Brian Mullinax arguably didn’t intend to or know telling Deputy Justin Johnson filming the arrest of his girlfriend would cause a panic attack, with Johnson firing seven shots at a trailer park. Remarkably, Mullinax is on trial for assault by anxiety attack.

Brian Keith Mullinax, 41, and his girlfriend, Tina Carrie Jo Cody, 37, spent 42 days in jail on felony charges, accused of causing what was described in court statements as a “panic attack” and which a detective called “some type of cardiac event.” They remain under prosecution on misdemeanor charges, court records show.

The charges started as felonies, because Deputy Johnson went to a hospital after the assault.

“Because of the assault on Johnson and the fact that he was taken to the hospital with injuries and may have suffered some type of cardiac event as the result of this assault by both the male and female and all the statements and evidence, I charged” Mullinax and Cody with aggravated assault, [Sevier County Sheriff’s Office Detetctive Johnny] Bohanan wrote.

And they might have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for that damn body cam video. You can watch it here. It’s disturbing, but not “Daniel Shaver Shooting” disturbing.

Johnson arrived at a Sevier County trailer park after paramedics attending to a woman who’d fallen complained Mullinax and Cody stole her purse. At the start of the video, Johnson is chasing after Cody, eventually catches her, and with the help of an EMT, handcuffs Cody.

Very shortly after Cody is secure, a male voice is heard on the video. It’s hard to make out who the voice is or what is being said, but it’s arguably Mullinax. He claims he was holding a cell phone and told Johnson he was recording his girlfriend’s arrest.

Johnson responds by drawing his service firearm and firing off four rounds in Mullinax’s direction, then an additional three. No warning is given, and no concern for Cody or the paramedic who covers Cody’s prone body once Johnson begins firing near his head.

After discharging his firearm, Johnson begins to flee the trailer park and heads toward the road. He radios for backup, saying “Help me! Shots fired!” Johnson tells dispatchers someone fired at him as he returns to the scene where paramedics tend to Cody.

Johnson continues screaming commands at Mullinax to drop any objects in his hands and get on the ground. He keeps his firearm drawn and ready to shoot the entire time. It’s not long after the shouting begins that Johnson starts hyperventilating, a telltale symptom of panic attacks.

Fortunately, one of the EMTs on scene catches this and figures out what’s happening to Johnson. This guy walks up to Johnson, calmly tells him everything’s fine, and takes the gun from Johnson’s hands. If anyone in this situation is a hero, it’s the medical pro who realized a cop suffering from a panic attack with a gun was a danger to a lot of people.

As more people arrive on scene, Johnson tells them to look for the gun because “[Mullinax] must’ve done something with it.” There’s no video of Johnson’s hospital ride, but one can infer the EMT who saw a panic attack so severe it popped out a contact lens needed extra observation.

Release of the body cam footage dropped the charges on Mullinax and Cody from aggravated assault to simple assault for Mullinax and resisting arrest for Cody.

Let’s get things clear: Mullinax did not assault Deputy Justin Johnson. Not once did he display an intent to cause Johnson bodily harm. At best one can accuse Mullinax of scaring Johnson with the thought of the press potentially seeing him manhandle Ms. Cody.

This is a bad case and a bad trial for prosecutors. Anxiety attacks aren’t something other people can intentionally or knowingly trigger, unless that person knows you very well and is despicable. Experiencing one hardly meets the elements of assault.

Worse for prosecutors is Deputy Johnson’s credibility, which is now very much in question. The body cam footage doesn’t help. Neither does a new report stating Deputy Johnson was forced to resign from a prior law enforcement gig in Washington County after, among other things, lying to his chief about an affair.

Cop life is arguably stressful. Following the First Rule of Policing means you’ll be in high-pressure situations on occasion. That a stressful situation escalating into an anxiety attack by a man with a badge, gun, and state sanctioned license to kill didn’t result in death is tragically, in our time, a miracle.

h/t Jamie Satterfield

Calling All Cops (No, Seriously)

One of the best projects I’ve ever gotten to work with is Fault Lines, an online legal magazine run by Scott Greenfield and Lee Pacchia.  At Fault Lines, we cover all aspects of the criminal justice system from every perspective.  Our work includes a former prosecutor, an active prosecutor who has a penchant for pissing readers off by being smart and reasoned when he writes, criminal defense attorneys, a Senior Federal Judge, someone who works with prisoners, and an ex cop turned lawyer.

There’s one perspective that we’re missing at Fault Lines, though, and that’s the perspective of an active-duty cop.  If you’re reading this, and you fit that description, and you’re interested in providing the world the viewpoint of someone who straps on a service belt every day, then we’re interested in hearing from you. Give us the cops’ perspective.

You’re going to need to be able to write at least two posts per week.  You will need to be able to meet deadlines consistently.  You must be able to write in a thoughtful, reasoned, articulate fashion.  Your posts will get edited, so don’t worry about sounding erudite from the get-go.  If you’re not confident in your ability to write, Scott Greenfield will kick your ass into being one of the best writers you can possibly imagine.

We’d love to hear from you, so if you’re interested in becoming a part of Fault Lines, read the directions on how to apply and give it a shot.  The worst that will happen is Scott will say “no thanks,” and life will go on.

It’s a great platform, it’s a good cause, and you’ll be a better writer for your efforts.  If those reasons don’t make you want to give it a shot, then Fault Lines isn’t for you.  If you’re keen on bring your perspective to the table, then step up to the plate and take a swing.

While you’re reading this, take a moment and sign up for the Fault Lines newsletter.  Just enter your name and email address in the box on the right-hand side of the page and we’ll email all the good stuff we pump out to you daily.  There’s no spam, no BS, no marketing gimmicks, just 100% pure awesome legal analysis.

A Saint Paddy’s Day Modest Proposal

Saint Paddy’s Day* is when just about every white person in America decides to get stinking drunk and pretend they’re Irish.  Those of us with actual Irish blood running through our veins tend to abhor such practices, but we’ll let you slide with your little cultural appropriation. While you’re drinking and reading this, I’ll make a modest proposal to you.  The MacManus Brothers of the “Boondock Saints” films should be dubbed the patron saints of professional conflict resolvers.

Image Credit: Media in Review

Image Credit: Media in Review

Connor and Murphy MacManus (played by Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus) reach an “epiphany” when seeing just how much evil exists in the world, and dedicate their lives to eradicating evil wherever they find it so that the innocent may flourish.  Their methods are a touch morally grey, but that’s life for you.  I’m not one to go around putting bullets in the back of Mafioso craniums, but I can admire two dudes who live their lives by the code “protect the innocent.”  They even have a family prayer they recite before each major execution, and I can definitely get behind men of faith practicing what they preach.

“And shepherds we shall be.

For Thee, my Lord, for Thee.

Power hath descended forth from Thy hand.

That our feet may swiftly carry out Thy command.

So we shall flow a river forth to Thee.

And Teeming with souls shall it ever be.

In Nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.”

The MacManus brothers definitely have commitment to “truth” and “justice.”  One has a tattoo of the word “Veritas,” which is Latin for Truth.  The other has a tattoo of the word “Aequitas,” which in the same language is either “Justice” or “Equality,” depending on the context. Who can’t get behind “truth,” “justice,” and “equality?”  No one I know!

In the first film, the MacManus brothers even have an “inside guy” who knows how to help.  He’s the ultimate paralegal that “knows stuff.”

Connor: We haven’t really got a system of deciding who, Roc. It’s, uh…

Rocco: Me! *Me*! I’m the guy! I know everyone! Their habits, who they hang out with, who they talk to! I’ve got phone numbers, addresses! I know who they’re fucking! I know where they live! We could kill *everyone.*

Murphy: So what do you think?

Connor: I’m strangely comfortable with it.

Less you think these “vigilantes” don’t understand the difference between a guy who did something stupid and needed to catch a break versus actual evil, the MacManus Brothers make their intentions very clear in the first film.

“There are varying degrees of evil. We urge you lesser forms of filth not to push the bounds and cross over into true corruption, into our domain.  For if you do, one day you will look behind you and you will see we three.  And on that day, you will reap it.  And we will send you to whatever God you wish.”

Even FBI Agent Paul Smecker (played by Willem Dafoe), understands they’re doing something that amounts to a just cause, even if he doesn’t like it.

The Priest: Would they ever harm an innocent person for any reason?

[of Rocco, who’s holding him at gunpoint]

Paul Smecker: No, they would never do that. Well, the two Irish guys wouldn’t, the Italian guy, he might, he’s kind of an idiot.

They also know that a certain “gallows humor” is necessary for the job they do, and make no bones about it, no matter who gets “triggered” or “microagressed,” long before those phrases entered the modern lexicon.

Connor: [during job training for an avid feminist] The rule of thumb here is…

Rosengurtie: Wait, rule of thumb? In the early 1900s it was legal for men to beat their wives, as long as they used a stick no wider than their thumb.

Connor: Can’t do much damage with that then, can we? Perhaps it should have been a rule of wrist?

So there you have it.  They protect the innocent, harbor no love for evil, abide by an ethical code, and manage to maintain a sense of humor about a profession where moral ambiguity is king.  My modest proposal is that we name the MacManus brothers the Patron Saints of Conflict Resolution Professionals.

Does anyone have the Vatican’s number on speed dial?

*The name for those of you who would adopt our holiday is “Saint Paddy’s Day,” not “Saint Patty’s Day.”  The “Paddy” refers to the Irish derivative “Padraig,” and refers to an actual Saint.  Just as I’m admonished at Fault Lines to get the law right, if you’re going to celebrate our holiday, you need to at least slur the name right after your tenth green beer.