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.)



green|spaces Announces New green|light Businesses

green|spaces announced that 10 local Chattanooga businesses are solidifying their commitment to sustainability through the green|light program. green|light is a third party corporate sustainability certification program through green|spaces that helps businesses with employee attraction, public image, cost savings, and environmental stewardship. The new green|light partners ... (click for more)

New Hamilton County Businesses

Here are the new business licenses from the County Clerk's office: AT DESIGNS AMY  THOMAS 3 HIGH END DESIGNS FOR HOME AND PRINT 7 WILLINGHAM LN LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN TN 37350 AUDACIOUS VENTURES LLC AUTUMN W BOYD 3 REAL ESTATE 240 FOREST AVE. #403 CHATTANOOGA TN 37405 BLUE DOOR PROPERTIES KAREN  HALL 3 SHORT TERM RENTAL 317 TREMONT ... (click for more)

Man And Woman Killed In Sunday Morning Murder/Suicide At Hixson Gas Station

A man and a woman were killed in a Sunday morning murder/homicide at a gas station in Hixson. The shooting was shortly after 10 a.m. at a Shell station at Hixson Pike and Brookaire.  Upon arrival, police located Kimberly Phillips, 48, lying in the parking lot from an apparent gunshot wound.  Also in the same parking lot, officers located Frederick Tragresser, 47, ... (click for more)

$2,060,705 Tennessee Cash Jackpot Won In South Pittsburg Friday Night

A Tennessee Cash player in South Pittsburg won a near-record jackpot of $2,060,705 on  Friday  night. A Knoxville Powerball player won $50,000  Saturday  night by matching four of the five white numbers drawn plus the red Powerball. No information is available about the winners until the prizes are claimed. The  $315.3 million ... (click for more)

Liberal Conspiracy Afoot

According to Roy Exum’s Sunday column, there are now upwards of six or seven Democrats in Hamilton County, and all of them have secretly maneuvered their way onto the boards of a couple of dozen local organizations. Unlike Republicans, some of them serve on multiple boards and some of them serve with one another on the same boards. This is outrageous. We all know that boards and ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Words For The Ages

I was probably one of few people in the entire world who didn’t get caught up in the Royal Marriage of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry this weekend. I got over having any semblance of ‘pomp and circumstance’ a long time ago and, as a rule, studiously avoid those apt to ‘put on airs and graces.’ By ignoring the magnificent occasion, I made a big mistake and today it is with delight ... (click for more)