Lee Davis: 6th Circuit Discusses What Makes A Jail Escape A “Crime of Violence”

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - by Lee Davis
The case of  U.S. v. Benji Antonio Stout, involved one man’s escape from prison and how that escape should be classified with regard to a subsequent criminal prosecution. The man, Benji Antonio Stout, was charged with knowingly possessing body armor after having previously been convicted of a crime of violence. The previous crime of violence conviction was Stout’s earlier charge of second-degree escape, a conviction he earned from escaping a county jail.
During the escape, Stout climbed a wall in the recreation area of the jail and then crawled through a hole in the top of the fence.

Stout and his attorneys argued that the prior conviction did not involve a crime of violence and asked the lower court for a hearing on the matter. The lower court concluded that his escape was a crime of violence given that his escape was purposeful and aggressive and that it created a substantial risk that he would need to use physical force against either guards or members of the public who encountered him during the escape. The fact that he never used such physical force was immaterial.

Stout then appealed the case, claiming essentially the same thing. The Sixth Circuit agreed with the decision of the lower court, holding that the escape amounted to a crime of violence. In its ruling, the Court walked through Kentucky’s statutes dealing with the subject of second-degree escape and determined that the type of escape at issue in this case involved “an escape by leaving custody in a secured setting.” This variety of escape involves a purposeful act and requires stealth and presents the possibility of both detection and ensuing confrontation.

The Sixth Circuit said that 18 U.S.C. Section 16(b) makes clear that a crime of violence includes any that involves a substantial risk that physical force may be used in the course of committing the offense. Under this definition, the Court says it is clear that the Stout’s escape meets the standard and should be properly deemed a crime of violence. As a result, his conviction and sentence were upheld.

In an interesting dissent, Judge Bernice Donald argued that unlike the famous prison escapes mentioned in The Count of Monte Cristo or The Shawshank Redemption, which Donald agrees would qualify as crimes of violence, Stout’s escape was achieved by merely climbing over a wall and crawling through a hole that he was not responsible for creating. Given that Stout never harmed anyone or any property in his escape, Judge Donald believes it is clear that his escape should not be labeled a crime of violence.

To read the full opinion, click here.

---

(Lee Davis is a Chattanooga attorney who can be reached at lee@davis-hoss.com or at 266-0605.)


TVA Releases Draft Environmental Assessment For Johnsonville Steam Supply

The Tennessee Valley Authority has released a draft Environmental Assessment on a proposal that would allow the Johnsonville Fossil Plant site to continue to provide steam for cogeneration use after the coal plant closes. The draft study considers the environmental effects of the two alternatives under consideration: A) take no action or B) add a heat recovery steam generator ... (click for more)

Attorney General Reaches Settlement With Middle Tennessee Auto Dealer

Middle Tennessee auto dealer, Wholesale Inc., has agreed to immediately change its advertising practices and pay the State of Tennessee $50,000, Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced. A Davidson County Court approved the settlement between Wholesale, Inc., the Tennessee Attorney General's Office, and the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs. The agreement centers ... (click for more)

Erlanger's Good Financial News Continues With $11.4 Million Profit For Past 3 Months; Profit At $25.3 Million After 9 Months

Erlanger Health System's good financial news keeps coming - with the announcement on Monday of a profit of $11.4 million for the past three months. Brit Tabor said the hospital has a profit of $25.3 million for the first nine months of the fiscal year. Kevin Spiegel, hospital president, said more good news is projected for the fourth quarter. Mr. Tabor said, "Our market ... (click for more)

Erlanger To Get $100 Million New Electronic Medical Records System

Erlanger Health System will be getting a new electronic medical records system costing just short of $100 million, Erlanger CEO and President Kevin Spiegel said Monday. He said the old Legacy IT system was the hospital's #1 dissatisfaction source. The hospital board is to be asked to approve the system, which will be paid for over several years, at the May board meeting. ... (click for more)

Shock Should Be At Low Teacher Salaries - And Response (4)

In a recent article, Commissioner Tim Boyd is quoted as being shocked at the "high" salaries of central office personnel. While I agree that their salaries are significantly more than what a classroom teacher could ever hope to make, I believe that his shock and disgust are misplaced.  Those salaries, when compared to private-sector jobs, are hardly out of line. Superintendent ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: ‘Licker’ Gets 55 Counts

In what was described as “a scene from some sick horror movie,” Giles County sheriff’s deputies and animal welfare officers raided the farm of known “Big Licker” Jeffery Alan Mitchell near Pulaski, Tn., last week and confiscated 55 Tennessee Walking Horses, all horribly malnourished and some that were so emaciated they could no longer walk. By Sunday, the horses were receiving medical ... (click for more)