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Wilson v. United States

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

June 30, 2016

DARIC M. WILSON, Appellant,

          Argued October 2, 2015

         Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Criminal Division (CF2-2522-12), Hon. Stuart Nash, Trial Judge

          Daniel Gonen, Public Defender Service, with whom James Klein and Alice Wang, Public Defender Service, were on the brief, for appellant.

          Uma M. Amuluru, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Vincent H. Cohen Jr., Acting United States Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman, Elizabeth H. Danello, and Damien Diggs, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

          Before Beckwith and Easterly, Associate Judges, and Belson, Senior Judge.


         This case came to be heard on the transcript of record and the briefs filed, and was argued by counsel. On consideration whereof, and as set forth in the opinion filed this date, it is now hereby

         ORDERED and ADJUDGED that the appellant's conviction of felony assault is reversed, an the case is remanded for the trial court to enter a judgment of conviction for simple assault.



         After a jury trial, appellant Daric Wilson was convicted of one count of assault with significant bodily injury[1] stemming from a quarrel about a cab fare with Salim Abubakar, the driver. As a result of this dispute, Mr. Abubakar sustained cuts and bruises to his face, experienced profuse bleeding, pain, and dizziness, and was eventually taken to the hospital. On appeal, Mr. Wilson raises only a sufficiency challenge, contending that the government presented insufficient evidence that the cuts and bruises amounted to "significant bodily injury" under the statute. We agree, and therefore reverse the conviction for felony assault and remand for the trial court to enter a judgment of conviction for the lesser included offense of simple assault.[2] See Quintanilla v. United States, 62 A.3d 1261, 1262, 1266 (D.C. 2013).


         On the evening of February 10, 2012, appellant Daric Wilson, his girlfriend, and a coworker named Jason Schneider hailed a taxi in the Crystal City area of Arlington, Virginia. Mr. Wilson and his girlfriend had recently finished dinner and drinks, and they planned to spend the rest of the evening with Mr. Schneider and some other friends in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Mr. Wilson and his companions got into Salim Abubakar's cab, and from here Mr. Abubakar's and Mr. Wilson's accounts diverge.

         Mr. Abubakar testified that Mr. Wilson, who appeared to be intoxicated, gave him imprecise and confusing instructions about where he wanted to go in the District. Mr. Abubakar explained that appellant eventually yelled at him to "stop, stop, stop" near the intersection of 18th Street and Florida Avenue, at which point the group exited the car. Mr. Schneider then attempted to pay Mr. Abubakar the fare, [3] but Mr. Wilson grabbed Mr. Schneider's hand to prevent him from doing so while making comments that "[were] hurtful to [Mr. Abubakar] as a human being [and] that addressed [his] color and [him] in general as a human being." Feeling afraid and threatened, Mr. Abubakar then got out of the cab and walked to an area behind it. Mr. Schneider eventually succeeded in paying the fare, but as Mr. Abubakar was counting the money, Mr. Wilson walked up and punched him "on top of [his] left eye." Mr. Abubakar said that he immediately started bleeding and "felt like [he was] really losing [his] eye, " and he did not return the punch. He also said that he felt dizzy. Mr. Wilson then began choking him with his arm, and at some point both men fell, with Mr. Abubakar landing on his face on the sidewalk.[4]On the ground, Mr. Wilson continued "holding [him] and stopping [him] from breathing, " making Mr. Abubakar think he was "going to die." Mr. Abubakar testified that Mr. Wilson was quietly saying to him either "you will die" or "I will kill you." Eventually, Mr. Schneider intervened to restrain Mr. Wilson. With the conflict defused, Mr. Abubakar walked to a nearby wall, seeking support because he still felt dizzy. Paramedics soon arrived, took him to the ambulance, and eventually transported him to the hospital.

         In Mr. Wilson's account, Mr. Abubakar, who seemed lost while driving through the District, "ignor[ed] [Mr. Wilson's] instructions [and] [went] in different, wrong directions" after explaining that he was not familiar with several of the locations Mr. Wilson suggested as a place to be dropped off-the Adams Morgan neighborhood, 18th and U Streets, or 18th and O Streets. Mr. Wilson therefore asked Mr. Abubakar to pull over and let the group out. After the passengers exited the car at the intersection of 18th and Florida, Mr. Wilson and Mr. Abubakar started arguing about the fare. Mr. Wilson testified that he refused to pay the full amount because Mr. Abubakar had gotten lost. Contrary to Mr. Abubakar's testimony, Mr. Wilson said that Mr. Abubakar, still in his car, insisted on the full fare while threatening to call the police. Mr. Wilson responded, "Great, call the police; I'll wait right here."

         According to Mr. Wilson, Mr. Abubakar suddenly "lost it" and began screaming at him and the other passengers. When Mr. Abubakar left the cab, Mr. Schneider tried to pay him, but Mr. Abubakar quickly "got angry again." Mr. Abubakar then pushed Mr. Wilson, who pushed him back. This tussling happened "maybe a couple of times" before Mr. Abubakar "put[] his head down" and "[went] to tackle" Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson testified that he was "completely caught [] off guard, " and that both men fell over, with Mr. Abubakar's face hitting the concrete. The two men grappled with each other on the ground, and Mr. Wilson grabbed Mr. Abubakar from behind to prevent him from flailing his arms and trying to hit him. After about twenty seconds, Mr. Abubakar had calmed down. Mr. Wilson consequently released him, reunited with his girlfriend and Mr. Schneider, and had begun walking away from the scene when the police arrived.

         Two Metropolitan Police Department officers also testified as to the extent of Mr. Abubakar's injuries.[5] Officer Mark McGrail testified that when he arrived on the scene, Mr. Abubakar "appeared to be in visible pain" and "was bleeding from his face" and "gushing blood." Officer McGrail said he noticed "blood dripping on the sweater that [Mr. Abubakar] was wearing, " and described this bleeding as "profuse[]"-ranking it a six on a scale of one through ten.[6] When he asked Mr. Abubakar what happened, Mr. Abubakar "moaned instead of responding." Officer McGrail testified that "you could just tell by his face that he was in pain." After the paramedics escorted Mr. Abubakar to the ambulance, he was treated there "for quite a while, " possibly as long as half an hour.[7]

         The second officer, Raeniel Castillo, testified that when he arrived on the scene, Mr. Abubakar "had cuts all over his face, " "blood dripping down from his face onto his clothes, " and "blood coming out of the injuries just pouring down his face." Mr. Abubakar "couldn't really talk that well, " and "[a]t one point, his jaw wouldn't move." Officer Castillo said the paramedics thought it might be broken, and they took Mr. Abubakar to the hospital after treating him in the ambulance. Officer Castillo characterized the volume of blood as a seven on a scale of one through ten.

         The government presented no testimony from doctors or paramedics, but it did introduce into evidence a series of photographs taken when Mr. Abubakar was in the hospital. The photographs depict Mr. Abubakar in a hospital bed with lacerations and dried blood on his face, a ...

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