May 2, 2017
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(CF3-6192-15) Hon. Lynn Leibovitz, Trial Judge
Deborah A. Persico for appellant.
Valinda Jones, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom
Channing D. Phillips, United States Attorney at the time the
brief was filed, Elizabeth Trosman, Chrisellen R. Kolb,
Christopher Bruckmann, and Katherine Earnest, Assistant
United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.
Fisher and McLeese, Associate Judges, and Steadman, Senior
STEADMAN, SENIOR JUDGE:
found appellant Cephus Hollis guilty of fifteen criminal
offenses relating to his vicious conduct in two separate
incidents five days apart, the first with Mr. Hampton Gathers
as the victim and the second with Mr. Zhong Zu as the victim.
At issue in this appeal are his two convictions for
aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury and his
three convictions for unauthorized use of a vehicle during or
to facilitate a crime of violence resulting in serious bodily
injury (UUV/COV/SBI). Appellant challenges whether the
evidence was sufficient to establish that he caused
"serious bodily injury" to either of his two
victims. In addition, appellant challenges whether the
evidence was sufficient to establish that his unauthorized
use of a vehicle occurred "during the course of or to
facilitate" a crime of violence. We affirm the
Facts of the Assaults
The Gathers Incident
September 7, 2014, appellant and his cousin Khyree Waters set
out on foot to steal cars. Appellant told Waters to target
Dodges and Chryslers because these brands were relatively
easy to steal, as well as to look out for delivery people,
who he said typically leave the car keys in the vehicle while
making deliveries. Appellant spotted a Dodge Stratus near
where they lived, punched out the ignition, and drove off in
the car with his cousin to look for other opportunities.
passed, they spotted a Dodge Avenger that was used by Mr.
Gathers, a Washington Post delivery person. Appellant hopped
into the driver's seat of the Avenger but found no keys.
As Mr. Gathers was returning to his car, appellant got out of
the car and accosted Mr. Gathers, demanding the keys. When
Mr. Gathers refused, appellant began beating and punching Mr.
Gathers until Mr. Gathers fell to the ground. Appellant's
cousin came to join the fray and both men continued to kick
Mr. Gathers mercilessly until he finally let go of the keys.
Leaving Mr. Gathers lying on the ground, appellant drove off
in Mr. Gathers' Avenger, which contained newspapers as
well as a cell phone and other items belonging to Mr.
Gathers. Appellant's cousin also left, driving the
previously stolen Stratus. The next thing Mr. Gathers
recalled was waking up in the hospital. The nature and extent
of his injuries are discussed in part III(A) of this opinion.
The Zu Incident
days later, Mr. Zu, who delivered food for a Chinese
restaurant, approached appellant's dwelling with a food
order. Appellant opened the door wielding a knife two or
three inches in length and, without a word, began to stab Mr.
Zu in the head. Appellant continued to stab Mr. Zu
"many" times and, even after Mr. Zu fell and lost
his glasses and perhaps dropped the keys to his car. Mr. Zu
managed to briefly escape from appellant and, while yelling
for help, ran to his delivery car and jumped in the
driver's seat. Now holding the keys, appellant pursued
Mr. Zu, jumped into the front passenger seat and demanded
that Mr. Zu exit the car, repeatedly stabbing Mr. Zu in the
face. When appellant got out and walked around to the
driver's side of the vehicle, Mr. Zu exited the vehicle
and tried to block appellant's continued knife thrusts
with his hands. Mr. Zu struggled to hold the driver's
door to prevent appellant from leaving, but appellant's
cousin, who had now joined the action, pushed Mr. Zu, his
face and body covered with blood, to the ground as appellant
drove away in the vehicle. Among Mr. Zu's belongings in
the car was his wallet containing $3, 400 in cash. An
ambulance took Mr. Zu to a hospital. The nature and extent of
his injuries are described in part III(B) of this opinion.
evolution of the offense of assault in the District of
Columbia into the current three-tier classification has been
set forth in a number of our prior opinions. Briefly put,
prior to 2007, only two levels of assault existed in the
District of Columbia. The basic statute of simple assault,
now D.C. Code § 22-404 (a)(1) (June 2017 Cum. Supp.),
required no injury and was punishable by a fine of no more
than $1, 000 and imprisonment of no more than 180 days. The
more serious aggravated assault, now D.C. Code §
22-404.01 (a) (June 2017 Cum. Supp.), required serious bodily
injury and was punishable by a fine of not more than $10, 000
and imprisonment of not more than ten years. "Serious
bodily injury" was not defined in the statute, leaving
the courts to define the term.
two classifications of assault proved problematic in
circumstances where the injury was more than "mere
'bodily injury' [such as slapping] but less serious
than 'serious bodily injury.'" Belt v.
United States,149 A.3d 1048, 1054 (D.C. 2016) (brackets
in original). To fill the gap, the Council of the District of
Columbia added a new category of felony assault, D.C. Code
§ 22-404 (a)(2), effective on April 24, 2007, that
required significant bodily injury and was punishable by a
fine of no more than $3, 000 and imprisonment of no more than
three years. The Council defined "significant bodily
injury" as an injury that "requires hospitalization
or immediate medical attention." D.C. Code § 22-404
(a)(2) (2012 Repl). However, the legislation adding felony
assault did not amend the two ...