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King v. Barbour

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 21, 2019

KURTIS KING, Plaintiff
v.
HALEY BARBOUR, JR., Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case arises from a physical altercation that took place between Plaintiff and Defendant on April 30, 2015. Defendant was standing on a sidewalk with his wife and two friends. Defendant attacked Plaintiff after taking offense to comments Plaintiff made about the appearance of Defendant's wife. Plaintiff filed this civil lawsuit asserting causes of action for assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendant also faced criminal charges for the alleged attack and was convicted of criminal simple assault on August 2, 2018.

         Plaintiff has filed a [57] Motion for Partial Summary Judgment based on the collateral estoppel effect of Defendant's guilty verdict. Plaintiff asks the Court to grant summary judgment on Plaintiff's Count 1 claim for assault and Count 2 claim for battery. Plaintiff also asks the Court to grant summary judgment as to the element of intentional conduct with respect to Plaintiff's Count 3 claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.[1]

         Upon consideration of the pleadings, [2] the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Plaintiff's [57] Motion to for Partial Summary Judgment. The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment on his Count 1 claim for assault and his Count 2 claim for battery based on collateral estoppel. However, the court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment on the element of intentional conduct with respect to Plaintiff's Count 3 claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress as that issue was not litigated in Defendant's criminal trial.

         I. BACKGROUND

         According to the findings of the judge presiding over Defendant's criminal trial in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, on April 30, 2015, Defendant was standing with his wife and two others on a sidewalk. As Plaintiff, who was intoxicated, passed the group, Plaintiff passed close to Defendant's wife and made offensive remarks to her. Defendant did not hear exactly what the remarks were, but his wife did. She understandably took offense. Defendant called out to Plaintiff who had already passed the group. Defendant then attacked Plaintiff. The parties continue to dispute the events leading up to this interaction. However, the events of Defendant's criminal trial, described below, are not disputed.

         On August 1 and 2, 2018, Defendant's criminal trial was conducted in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Pl.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (“Pl.'s Stat.”), ECF No. 57-3, ¶ 1. Defendant was represented by Marlon Griffith, who also represents Defendant in this civil matter. Id. at ¶ 2. At the trial, the United States presented three witnesses-Plaintiff, Detective Michael Murphy, and Jill Quinones, a friend of Plaintiff's who was with him the night of the incident. Id. at ¶ 3.

         During the United States' case, Plaintiff testified, in relevant part, that while walking to his car he saw and commented on an attractive woman. Id. at ¶ 4d; see also Ex. B, ECF No. 57-4, 3: 11-75: 11 (Plaintiff's testimony at Defendant's criminal trial). Plaintiff testified that he did not make physical contact with the woman and continued walking. Id. at ¶ 4e. Plaintiff then stated that he heard Defendant shouting at him. Immediately following these shouts, Defendant ran towards Plaintiff and began hitting and attacking him. Id. at ¶ 4f-g. Plaintiff testified that Defendant continued striking him with a closed fist in the head even after he had fallen to his knees. Id. at ¶ 4j, o. Plaintiff further testified that he had no time to react or to get out of the way and that he never lunged or hit at Defendant. Id. at ¶ 4h-i. Plaintiff explained that he was seriously injured by the attack. Id. at ¶ 4k-n.

         In his testimony, Detective Murphy stated that he had interviewed Defendant after his arrest the morning of May 1, 2015. Id. at ¶ 5b; see also Ex. B, ECF No. 57-4, 75: 15-80: 9 (Detective Murphy's testimony). Detective Murphy stated that Defendant had been charged at the time with aggravated assault. Id. at ¶ 5c. The government moved into evidence the video recording of Detective Murphy's interview with Defendant. Ex. B, ECF No. 57-4, 79: 4.

         Finally, Ms. Quinones, who was with Plaintiff the night of the incident, testified that after walking past two men playfighting next to a woman on the sidewalk she noticed that Plaintiff was no longer walking with her. Pl.'s Stat., ECF No. 57-3, ¶ 6c; see also Ex. B, ECF No. 57-4, 80: 24-117: 20 (Ms. Quinones's testimony). When she turned to look for Plaintiff, she saw him on the ground being physically attacked by Defendant. Id. at ¶ 6d. She testified that Defendant stood over Plaintiff and punched him several times, but she never saw Plaintiff hit Defendant. Id. at ¶ 6e-f.

         When it was time for the Defense to put on its case, Defendant took the stand to testify in his own defense. Id. at ¶ 7; see also Ex. C, ECF No. 57-5, 3: 21- 35: 2 (Defendant's testimony). Defendant stated that he was on a date with his wife, standing in front of a restaurant saying goodbye to friends, when he saw Plaintiff walk close by his wife and say something. Id. at ¶ 7b. Defendant testified that he asked Plaintiff what he said multiple times until Plaintiff turned around. Id. at ¶ 7c. Defendant stated that Plaintiff then took a few steps towards Defendant and his group. Id. at ¶ 7e. Defendant testified that he stepped towards Plaintiff because he thought Plaintiff was coming to hit him. Id. at ¶ 7f. Defendant stated that he struck Plaintiff in the face two or three times before Plaintiff fell to the ground. Id. at ¶ 7g. Defendant explained that he struck Plaintiff with his right hand and held Plaintiff's head with his left hand but stopped hitting Plaintiff when Plaintiff fell to his knees. Id. at ¶ 7j-k. Defendant admitted that he did not call 911 or remain at the scene after the attack. Id. at ¶ 7m. Defendant explained that he hit Plaintiff because he thought Plaintiff was going to strike him, his wife, or one of his friends and he felt threatened. Id. at ¶ 7h-i. He admitted that during his custodial interview with Detective Murphy he had said that he “beat the shit” out of Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 7l.

         Following Defendant's testimony, Defendant moved for judgment of acquittal but was denied. The parties then made their closing statements. Id. at ¶ 8.

         In its closing statement, the United States argued that Defendant assaulted Plaintiff and had not acted in self-defense. Id. at ¶ 9a-b; see also Ex. C, ECF No. 57-5, 39: 3-46: 15 (United States' closing statement). The United States contended that Plaintiff had walked away from Defendant after his comment to Defendant's wife and that Defendant had rushed to attack Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 9c-d. The United States emphasized that, during his custodial interview, Defendant had not mentioned Plaintiff moving to attack him or the need for self-defense or defense of others. Id. at ¶ 9e-f.

         In Defendant's closing statement, Defense counsel argued that Defendant had hit Plaintiff in self-defense or defense of others because he felt threatened. Id. at ¶ 10a-b; see also Ex. C, ECF No. 57-5, 46: 17-61: 17 (Defendant's closing statement). Defense counsel pointed out that Plaintiff was intoxicated at the time and that Plaintiff's arguments were more consistent with being hit once or twice, not repeatedly. Id. at ¶ 10d-e.

         After a brief recess to consider the arguments, the court made an oral ruling. Id. at ¶ 11; see also Ex. C, ECF No. 57-5, 68: 25-76: 12 (the judge's oral ruling). The court began by noting that, to prove simple assault, “the Government must prove that defendant in this case, Haley Barbour, Jr., with force of violence injured or attempted to injure a person, in this case it's Kurtis King. Second, he intended to use force of violence against the person, and third, at the time he had the apparent ability to injure that person.” Ex. C, ECF No. 57-5, 69: 3-8. The court decided that “[t]here's no dispute that those elements are satisfied.” Id. at 69: 9.

         The court went on to explain that “[t]he defendant has introduced the defense of self defense, which I find they have done so to the point that the Government must now prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was not acting in self defense.” Id. at 69: 10-13. The court then rejected Defendant's self-defense and defense of others theories. First, the court found that “[t]here's no evidence to my mind that shows that Mr. Barbour reasonably believed himself to be in danger at that time.” Id. at 74: 2-4. The court explained that Defendant “easily could have chosen not to approach. Assuming for the sake of argument that Mr. King approached him, he could have chosen not to approach him. He could have chosen not to engage. He was standing with other people. He could have warned him, you come any step closer I'll do something. None of that took place.” Id. at 74: 5-10. The court found that Defendant “did not believe himself to be in physical danger, that he was angry at what he believes to be an insult. He wasn't defending his wife from physical threats. He wasn't defending himself from physical threats. He was avenging an insult to his wife's honor.” Id. at 74: 19-23. Elaborating, the judge stated that Defendant “was protecting [his wife] from offensive remarks and insult. He was not protecting her physically. He was not in physical danger. His wife was not in physical danger.” Id. at 76: 5-8. Finally, the Court determined that “[e]ven assuming that Mr. Barbour believed that he had to punch first in order to protect himself, I find him guilty of simply assault because I believe he used excessive force.” Id. at 74: 16-18. However, this Court notes that the judge in Defendant's criminal trial made no finding as to how many times Defendant punched Plaintiff.

         On August 21, 2018, the court held a sentencing hearing during which Plaintiff gave a victim impact statement. Pl.'s Stat., ECF No. 57-3, ¶ 17-18. The court ordered restitution in the amount of $1, 342 as that amount is the “uncompensated expenses directly attributable to the immediate treatment received after the injury.” Ex. D, ECF No. 57-6, 20: 9-11. The court also sentenced Defendant to a suspended 60-day incarceration, one year of probation, and 20 hours of community service. Pl.'s Stat., ECF No. 57-3, ¶ 19. The court reiterated that Defendant had not acted in self-defense or defense of others. Id. at ¶ 20. The court then entered a Judgment and Commitment order. Id. at ¶ 21.[3]

         II. ...


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