United States District Court, D. Maryland
THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
8, 2016, Defendant Eric Payne was convicted of misdemeanor
simple assault, 18 U.S.C. S 113(a)(5) (2012), at a bench
trial before a United States Magistrate Judge. Payne now
appeals on the basis that the evidence at trial was
insufficient to sustain the conviction. For the reasons set
forth below, the conviction is affirmed.
following facts were presented at trial. On the evening of
November 12, 2015, Payne, a military veteran, went to The
Club at Andrews ("the Club"), a restaurant and
recreation facility located within Joint Base Andrews, a
federal military installation. Payne uses a wheelchair
because he has had his right leg amputated; he does not wear
a prosthetic limb. That evening, the Club was hosting karaoke
night, and the music was very loud.
Barnett ("Barnett",, a cook, was working at the
Club that night. Barnettss wife, Yoshiko Barnett, was also at
the Club to celebrate a friend's birthday. When Barnettss
shift ended at approximately 10:00 p.m., he sat down at the
bar with a bottle of beer, approximately ten feet away from
Yoshiko Barnett and her friend.
towards the dance floor, Barnett observed Payne speaking with
Yoshiko Barnett and her friend and showing them pictures.
Barnett was familiar with Payne and, in fact, had served him
food and had a conversation with him that very night. Barnett
watched as Payne put his arm around Yoshiko Barnettss
shoulders and placed his hand near her buttocks. Unhappy with
this turn of events, Barnett approached Payne, tapped him on
the shoulder, and "asked him to back up because that was
my wife and he was too close." Tr. at 105, Gov't Ex.
2, ECF No. 1-2. Because the music was loud, Barnett stood
close to Payne while making this request. Barnett spoke
loudly enough that Patricia Williams, a Club employee whose
shift had also just ended, could hear him over the music
while she was sitting at the bar.
to Barnett, Payne then became angry, used his arms to push
himself out of his wheelchair, and hit Barnett twice in the
chest with his open palms. The force of the strikes was not
enough to cause Barnett to spill his beer. Shocked, Barnett
put down his beer bottle, but before he could otherwise
react, Williams and another co-worker intervened and escorted
Barnett outside the Club. Barnett did not have any further
interaction with Payne that night.
testified that she did not see the person Barnett had
confronted. She did not see Payne at the Club that night, and
did not see him put his hands on Barnett. Williams testified
that she escorted Barnett from the club because she did not
want him to get in trouble. Joyce Tyler, a bartender whose
shift had also ended at 10:00 p.m., testified that while she
was sitting at the bar listening to the karaoke music, she
saw Barnett stand up behind his wife and speak to Payne, but
she did not see Payne touch Barnett.
did not report the incident. However, on November 25, 2015,
the police contacted him, and he spoke to them about the
alleged assault. On November 30, 2015, at the request of the
police, he and Yoshiko Barnett went to the police station,
where he signed a statement describing the incident. Yoshiko
Barnett also gave a statement. On December 2, 2015, the
police approached Williams and interviewed her about the
incident. The police asked Tyler for a statement on December
was charged in a superseding criminal complaint with simple
assault upon Barnett, in violation of 18 U.S.C. S 113(a)(5).
The superseding criminal complaint also charged Payne with a
number of other misdemeanoss that he allegedly committed at
Joint Base Andrews, including charges stemming from a traffic
stop and from a separate incident at the Club. The charges
resulted in three separate trials, each held before United
States Magistrate Judge Charles B.Day on June 12, 2016.
trial on the simple assault charge, the Government's only
witness was Barnett. At the close of Barnettss testimony,
Payne moved for judgment of acquittal. The Court denied the
motion. The defense then called Williams and Tyler as
witnesses. After hearing the testimony, the Magistrate Judge
found Payne guilty of the assault of Donnell Barnett and
sentenced him to a fine of $250 and a $10 special assessmen..
sole issue on appeal is whether the Government presented
sufficient evidence to support Payne's conviction for
simple assault pursuant to 18 U.S.C. S 113(a)(5). Payne
argues that the discrepancies in the trial testimony of
Barnett, Williams, and Tyler preclude a finding of guilt
beyond a reasonable doubt. The Government urges the Court to
affirm based on the Magistrate Judgess factual findings,
particularly his determinaiion that Barnettss testimony was