Three men could face felony assault charges after a Virginia judge has ruled enough evidence exists to send their case to a grand jury.
The three men are accused of beating an off-duty deputy and his friend on July 4 in Poquoson, Virginia. The grand jury will consider charges of malicious wounding as well as assault and battery of a law enforcement officer. The defendants are aged 26, 22 and 19.
The incident allegedly occurred at Owen's Marina in Poquoson. A man testified in court that he, the sheriff's deputy, their wives and his preschool-age daughter were boating and stopped at the marina for dinner.
The man said as he exited the boat, he was approached by a group of about seven people and tried to ignore them. When the deputy showed his badge and urged the group of people to return to their boat, he was punched in the face by one of the men, the deputy said. He testified that he was hit 30 times.
The attorneys for the three men said their clients should not be charged with assault and battery of a law-enforcement officer because the deputy was off duty at the marina and not in a role of authority. The judge said that argument was wrong because once the deputy pulled out his badge and showed it to the men, he was acting as a public safety official.
The defendants in this case will have their chance to argue that point as the case progresses through the court. They also will be able to share their story as to what could have started the alleged dispute between the men and the group. To this point, that is unclear. The prosecution, should the case reach trial, will be required to show that the three men were instigators.
Source: The Virginia Gazette, "Charges upheld in assault of off-duty York deputy," Amanda Kerr, Nov. 20, 2012