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Collins v. United States

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

August 15, 2013

Jamontie M. Collins, Appellant,
United States, Appellee.

Argued May 23, 2013

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia CF3-4930-10, Hon. Ronna L. Beck, Trial Judge.

Stefanie Schneider, Public Defender Service, with whom James Klein, Public Defender Service, was on the brief, for appellant.

Peter S. Smith, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Ronald C. Machen Jr., United States Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman and Edward O'Connell, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

Before Glickman and Fisher, Associate Judges, and Schwelb, Senior Judge.


Appellant Jamontie Collins challenges his convictions arising from assaults of two victims and the robbery of one of them, claiming that the trial court committed reversible error by instructing the jury that he could be held vicariously liable for the conduct of co-conspirators. He also argues that the evidence is insufficient to support certain of his convictions. We affirm the judgment except for one count of assault with significant bodily injury, which merges into the conviction for aggravated assault of the same victim.

I. Background

A. The Attack at the Red Roof Inn

Appellant's convictions arose from an attack that occurred shortly after midnight on Saturday, March 20, 2010. Many of the events were captured by security cameras mounted outside a Red Roof Inn.

Around midnight, William Wooten and Richard Brown, then aged twenty-four and eighteen, respectively, were walking eastbound on H Street towards the intersection with Fifth Street in Northwest Washington, D.C. At that time, several young men, including appellant, were loitering in front of the Red Roof Inn, walking back and forth and talking to each other. The various young men were identified throughout the proceedings that followed by their appearance, including descriptions of their clothing. For example, one young man wore a checkered shirt, another wore a red shirt and a red baseball cap, and a third wore a white hooded sweatshirt with stripes on the sleeves. Two other young men — one in a tan-colored, long-sleeved jacket with a dark stripe, and another in a black t-shirt, cap, and jeans — leaned against vehicles outside the hotel entrance.

As Wooten and Brown walked side-by-side towards the Red Roof Inn, they encountered a young boy who they estimated was about ten or eleven years old. The boy asked where they were from and what they had in their pockets, leading Wooten and Brown to suspect that "a set up"or a plan to rob them was afoot. Wooten testified that he responded "Virginia, "but did not reply to the second question, and that he and Brown continued walking. Brown recalled Wooten saying " “money' or something like that" in response to the second question. Wooten and Brown noted that appellant was standing near the wall by the hotel entrance at the time, roughly a foot away from the little boy.

Suddenly, appellant attacked Wooten from behind, punching him in the eye. Wooten and appellant struggled, throwing punches. As Wooten began to get the upper hand, appellant called to his associates for assistance, saying, "Oh, y'all just going to stand there? "Within seconds, several young men — including a man wearing a two-toned jacket (white with colored shoulders and sleeves) — joined appellant. Wooten estimated that seven or eight young men surrounded him during the fight. Appellant and others slammed Wooten against a car, and the impact from Wooten's elbow shattered one of the car's windows, lodging shards of glass in his arm as the young men continued to pummel him.

Brown moved away as the fight began, but quickly drew closer to Wooten and his assailants. As Brown approached, the man in the checkered shirt pointed to him, and some of the other young men yelled to each other, "Back off. Back off, "while another yelled, "Oh, he's got a blade on him, "apparently seeing that Brown had pulled out a knife.

Wooten continued to fight back, and with the men temporarily distracted by Brown's advance, Wooten managed to remove his arm from the car window. He then pulled out a small knife, advancing on appellant. This caused appellant and the others to scatter; while Wooten pursued appellant, the man in the two-toned jacket turned his attention to Brown. In the middle of H Street, in front of the Red Roof Inn, the man in the two-toned jacket told Brown to empty his pockets, which Brown refused to do.

At the same time that the man in the two-toned jacket was confronting Brown, Wooten managed to stab appellant's leg and cut his face with a knife. Appellant yelled, "Get the gun. Get the gun." Seconds later, a young man in a black, long-sleeved Northface jacket and blue jeans chased Wooten from the middle of H Street towards the hotel, ...

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