AN OP ED BY KENNETH DEL VECCHIO
Any time a criminal complaint rests solely upon one person’s word, the case should immediately be dismissed upon a prosecutor’s own motion, as such constitutes per se reasonable doubt. Where there is no supporting eye witness testimony, confessions, audio recordings, video evidence, and/or physical evidence, a classic he-said-she-said case exists. He-said-she-said matters are inherently unreliable as a trier of fact (jury or judge) would need to be a clairvoyant to determine which party is telling the truth. In all of these matters, indeed one person is honest and the other is a liar. There is always a victim: either a person who has claimed foul and has truly been harmed or, alternatively, a defendant who has been wrongfully accused. Given that no one has mind reading powers, it is literally impossible to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt where a criminal complaint is backed exclusively by a naked assertion as, simply, who knows who is telling the truth.
When all the bluster and fuss is removed, the “one person’s word versus another’s” scenario is exactly what exists in the Corey Lewandowski case. Following are the facts:
Corey Lewandowski serves as the campaign manager for the world’s currently most well-known figure, leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Allegedly, he grabbed the arm of former Breitbart News reporter, Michelle Fields, at a news conference in Jupiter, Florida. Fields claims that Lewandowski made contact with her in an effort to prevent her from asking Trump a question about affirmative action. After the alleged confrontation, Fields posted pictures, via Twitter, depicting bruises on her arm. Lewandowski wholly refutes that the incident ever occurred, Tweeting “You are totally delusional. I never touched you. As a matter of fact, I have never even met you.”
This sounds like the prototypical he-said-she-case. Fields claims that Lewandowski grabbed her arm. Lewandowski counters that he never had any contact with her. There is more “evidence”, however.
Videos have emerged that purport to show Fields in the near vicinity of Lewandowski directly before the alleged assault. An initial problem with the footage is that they mostly show the back of the head of a man who appears to be Lewandowski. Assuming arguendo that Lewandowski is present, these videos, from a prosecution perspective, are nonetheless meaningless. Not only do none of them reveal that Lewandowski forcibly grabbed Fields’s arm, they render absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Lewandowski even made contact with her. More so, the videos do not show that anyone made contact with Fields. Additionally, even if her arm was indeed grabbed, yanked or touched by another person, there were dozens of people around Fields. In other words, there are numerous suspects – with the word “suspect” being utilized loosely here as the assault charge, in every aspect, is dubious at best.
While it is possible that someone grabbed Fields’s arm at the news conference, causing bruising, it is equally possible that she fabricated it. Basic special effects makeup – which could be effectively applied by any lay person, much less a savvy representative of television media who routinely deals with professional makeup artists – could have been applied by Fields to replicate a bruise. Certainly, it is not posited here that Fields manufactured physical evidence but, in layman’s terms, let’s get real: many times alleged victims create evidence of injuries to bolster an otherwise weak case.
Regardless of whether she actually suffered a bruise on her arm, there still are no proofs that Lewandowski – or anyone at the Jupiter news conference – caused the blood vessel blemish. That said, it should be noted that a Washington Post reporter, Ben Terris, says he witnessed the purported incident. Terris wrote, “I watched as a man with short-cropped hair and a suit grabbed her arm and yanked her out of the way. He was Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s 41-year-old campaign manager.” This sounds like a conclusive eye witness report. That is until it is appropriately dissected.
The bevy of people around Trump included multiple men in suits with “short-cropped hair.” More damaging to Terris’s account is a photograph taken by his colleague, Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford, seconds before the alleged altercation. This photograph, as well as many videos, show two suited men with short-cropped hair right next to Trump. Lewandowski is on the opposite side of Trump and Fields; the other short-cropped hair man is seen closer to Fields (meaning on her side of Trump). The Terris statement becomes particularly confounding for Fields’s case, however, in that the statement involves a wholly important question connected to it. An audio recording reveals that Fields actually asked Terris if the person who yanked her arm was “Corey.” This is an admission by Fields that she did not know who grabbed her arm. More so, Fields claimed right after the incident that she nearly fell to the ground; that claim is preposterous as the videos reveal that nothing even close to “falling to the ground” occurred. Terris’s report crumbles with these facts, and is rendered incredible.
What likely occurred at this news conference was that Michelle Fields’s arm was indeed pulled by someone. However, there is insufficient – if not contradictory – evidence that Corey Lewandowski was the individual who did the pulling. It is also worthy to note something preciously intertwined with this matter: the law.
Regardless of who may have grabbed Fields’s arm, it would be improper for a prosecutor to proceed with a battery or assault charge. The Florida battery statute makes it appear that a conviction could easily be obtained because it merely provides that a person is guilty where he “actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other.” Under nearly all criminal statutes, a person must retain some culpable mental state in order to be convicted of an offense. In English, that means that the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to cause the battery. But is simply “touching” or even “pulling” or “grabbing” enough to convict under this Florida statute? No…Case law provides that the defendant must have some form of intent to cause at least minimal harm to another. Specifically, in order to be convicted of an assault or battery, case law dictates that the person must “attempt to cause or purposely, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another.” Assuming that someone grabbed Fields’s arm, which resulted in bruising, there has not been any evidence whatsoever presented to suggest that the person “purposely” or “knowingly” caused the bodily injury. It’s even a stretch to argue that grabbing a person’s arm is a “reckless” act – wherein it is reasonably foreseeable that bruising would occur. In common speak, people grab others’ arms all the time – and it doesn’t even cross their minds that bruising would occur.
This case is total nonsense – and it should be dismissed as quickly as the charges were filed.
A former New Jersey judge, prosecutor, and criminal defense attorney who has tried over 400 cases and handled thousands of others, Kenneth Del Vecchio is the author of some of the nation’s best-selling legal books, including a series of criminal codebooks published by Pearson Education/Prentice Hall and ALM. Del Vecchio also is a critically acclaimed filmmaker who has written, directed and produced 30 feature films that star several Academy Award and Emmy winners and nominees. Launching his career by penning a best-selling criminal suspense novel as a 24-year-old law student, Del Vecchio is also founder and chairman of Hoboken International Film Festival, called by FOX, MY and other major media “One of the 10 Biggest Film Festivals in the World.”
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