Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (M6729-03) (Hon. Craig Iscoe, Trial Judge).
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Washington, Associate Judge.
Before FARRELL and WASHINGTON, Associate Judges, and PRYOR, Senior Judge.
Appellant Virginia Stroman ("Stroman") appeals from her conviction of simple assault, in violation of D.C. Code § 22-404 (2001), and attempted possession of a prohibited weapon, in violation of D.C. Code §§ 22-1803 and - 4514 (b) (2001). Stroman contends that: (1) the trial court erred by disregarding her defense of self-defense and not applying the appropriate standard; and (2) that there was insufficient evidence to find her guilty of the charges. We affirm in part and reverse in part.
Fourteen-year-old Javett Presfley ("Presfley") was at her home, located on the 300 block of 17th Street, Southeast, Washington, D.C., on the evening of July 31, 2003. While Presfley was on the front porch of her home, Stroman came to her house to speak with Presfley's mother about an altercation that occurred earlier between Stroman's son and several boys in the neighborhood, including Presfley's younger brother. Kim McClain ("McClain"), a neighbor who had witnessed the altercation between the boys, informed Stroman that Presfley's brother was involved, and accompanied Stroman to the Presfley home.
Stroman spoke with Presfley's mother on the sidewalk in front of the house. Stroman testified that Presfley was interrupting the conversation and using obscenities. In her testimony at trial, Presfley denied using obscenities. Both parties agree that, at one point, Presfley attempted to interject and, soon thereafter, Stroman and Presfley got into a "heated argument."
At the conclusion of all the evidence in a bench trial, the court found that Stroman taunted Presfley, and urged Presfley to meet her on the sidewalk. Next, Stroman removed her flip flops and earrings. Presfley then descended the steps of her porch, pushing past both her mother and McClain, who tried to stop her, and a fight ensued between Presfley and Stroman. After that, McClain attempted to separate Presfley and Stroman. After McClain's intercession, Stroman retrieved her flip flop and struck Presfley on the forehead with it, causing a cut that required fifteen stitches. Based on this evidence, the court found that Stroman intentionally hit Presfley in her face with the flip flop and caused an injury, and thus convicted Stroman of simple assault and attempted possession of a prohibited weapon. The court sentenced Stroman to 150 days incarceration, suspended in its entirety, and placed her on one year of supervised probation, to be followed by three years of unsupervised probation. Stroman now appeals from these convictions.
Stroman's first claim on appeal is that the trial court erred in disregarding her defense of self-defense. Stroman argues that the government did not meet its burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that she did not act in self-defense. This argument is without merit.
A defendant is entitled to the defense of self-defense where there exists evidence sufficient for a reasonable factfinder to find in her favor. See Wilson v. United States, 673 A.2d 670, 673 (D.C. 1996). In this case, the trial court, sitting as trier of fact, determined that Presfley's testimony, and that of her brother, was credible. From that testimony, the court found that Stroman assaulted Presfley with her flip flop after the fight had ended, precluding Stroman from asserting the defense of self-defense. "Any 'factual finding anchored in credibility assessments derived from personal observations of the witnesses is beyond appellate reversal unless those factual findings are clearly erroneous.'" Hill v. United States, 664 A.2d 347, 353 n.10 (D.C. 1995) (quoting United States v. McNeal, 955 F.2d 1067, 1072 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 505 U.S. 1223 (1992)). We do not find that the trial court was erroneous in finding as fact that the fight had ended before Stroman hit Presfley with her flip flop. Therefore, we find that the trial court did not err when it discredited Stroman's claim of self-defense. See Wilson, supra, 673 A.2d at 673.
Stroman's second claim on appeal is that there was insufficient evidence to find her guilty of the charges of assault and attempted possession of a prohibited weapon. In reviewing claims of insufficient evidence, we review the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, giving it the benefit of all reasonable inferences in its favor. See Blakeney v. United States, 653 A.2d 365, 369 n.3 (D.C. 1995) (citations omitted). Reversal is required only where there is "no evidence upon which a reasonable mind could fairly conclude guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, drawing no distinction between direct and circumstantial evidence." Harris v. United States, 668 A.2d 839, 841 (D.C. 1995) (citing Curry v. United States, 520 A.2d 255, 263 (D.C. 1987)).
In a prosecution for simple assault, the government must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant made: "(1) an attempt, with force or violence, to injure another; (2) [with] the apparent present ability to effect the injury; and (3) [with] the intent to do the act, constituting the assault." Macklin v. United States, 733 A.2d 962, 964 (D.C. 1999) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Assault requires general intent, which may be "inferred from doing the act that constituted the assault." See Smith v. United States, 593 A.2d 205, 206 (D.C. 1991) (citing Robinson v. United States, 506 A.2d 572, 575 (D.C. 1986)).
In this case, Presfley testified that after the fight ended, Stroman ran up to her, hitting her in the head with her flip flop. Presfley's brother testified that McClain was restraining Presfley in an attempt to end the fight when Stroman hit Presfley with her flip flop. The trial court found this testimony to be credible. We have already held that the trial court was not erroneous in finding that Stroman was not acting in self-defense when she hit Presfley with the flip flop because the fight had ended. Thus, viewing this evidence in the light most favorable to the government, we are satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to convict Stroman of simple ...