client's story

A Client’s Story – A True Road Rage Incident – Part 2

This is the second half of our client’s story. His name has been changed to Mitch Davis to protect his identity, but the story is 100% real. If you missed part 1, click here to read that first.

Mitch bonded out of jail the next morning. The incident and arrest occurred in mid-May. Unfortunately, Mitch heard from the Sheriff’s office again later that day when he was served with a Risk Protection Order. Although he knew it was unwarranted, Mitch complied with the order and called us immediately.

14 days or less to prepare is generally not enough

Although we had our client’s story, we had nothing else. We jumped into action. We immediately sent subpoenas for video recording to the bank and other businesses near where the incident occurred. Many times the video systems have very short windows before the recordings are recorded over. Action is immediately necessary when video evidence may be lost. We also demanded discovery from the State. Discovery is the legal term used to include all the information in the state’s possession regarding the incident.

Unfortunately, 14 days is generally not enough time to gather the evidence needed to disprove the allegations made in a Risk Protection Order. We were forced, with Mitch’s permission, to seek a continuance from the court to gather the materials needed to show Mitch was acting in self-defense and was not a risk to himself or others. The City Attorney did not object to the continuance of the hearing, especially since the temporary order would remain in place until the new hearing date, which was set about 30 days later. In the meantime, Mitch was disarmed and unable to protect himself or his family in the event of another incident.

Verifying our client’s story proved difficult

The videos from the businesses’ surveillance cameras came in and proved to be useless and none of the cameras in the area showed the area where the confrontation occurred. Then we got the written discovery from the State Attorney’s Office.

Mitch’s version of events was not the same as what others claimed

Reading the police report and the witness statements from the alleged victim and her son in addition to the independent witness made it look like this would be a very difficult case. Especially with the independent unrelated witness swearing that it was Mitch who chased down the alleged victim, following her into the lot and walking up to her car with gun drawn as she and her passengers sat in the car. It sure seemed as though the version of events as told by Mitch was not true. The evidence the state had thus far certain cast doubt on our client’s story. It seemed as though Mitch had been the aggressor.

Thank God for the Video

Thankfully, the alleged victim had recorded much of the encounter. About a week later we received her video from the State. We immediately sent a copy of the video to the City Attorney who was handling the Risk Protection Order and were happily surprised when, after viewing the video, she voluntarily withdrew the request for a Risk Protection Order. Unfortunately, the State Attorney prosecuting the case was not so accommodating.

The State still proceeded with the charges

With the new video in hand, we drafted a Motion for Statutory Immunity and immediately set depositions in the case. Even after reviewing the video, the State Attorney would not drop the charges. We took the sworn deposition of the alleged victim, her son, and the independent witness. The woman and her son admitted that they followed our client until he pulled over, admitted approaching him outside of their car, but denied ever having gone to the trunk of the car and denied ever having produced a bat or any other weapon. The independent eyewitness told the same version of events he told the police. He saw the entire incident, watched as our client chased down the woman’s car, got out of his car with gun drawn and threatened the occupants of the vehicle, who the witness swore never left their car.

Motion for Statutory Immunity

We filed our Motion for Immunity laying out our client’s story step by step. We pointed out how Mitch’s version of events which he had been telling from the beginning matched what was seen and heard on the recording. The Motion for Immunity was set for a hearing in late November. The State still tried to get Mitch to enter a plea to the Felonies. He refused. Finally, one week prior to the hearing on our immunity motion, when it was clear Mitch would not plea to the aggravated assault charges, the State dropped them. Mitch was facing a possibility of going to jail for up to 10 years 60 days. He was facing fines up to $10,500 dollars. The State Attorney, realizing that he was almost certain to lose at our hearing due to the damning video evidence and the inconsistencies we were able to establish during deposition dropped the felony charges against Mitch.

Mitch took a deal

In exchange for the two felony charges being dropped, Mitch pled to the remaining charge of reckless driving. The state required Mitch to take a 4-hour defensive driving class and Mitch agreed to take an 8-hour anger management class as part of the reckless driving charge in exchange for the felony charges being dropped. Although we had hoped Mitch would not plea to anything, it is always the clients decision. Mitch did not think it was worth the risk to potentially be sentenced to prison for a crime he knew he did not commit. He considered this a huge win and a huge relief. Mitch avoided being convicted of any crime by entering a plea of no contest to the reckless driving charge. The court did not convict Mitch of this charge, but instead withheld the adjudication of guilt. Since Mitch was a member of U.S. LawShield, all of his legal fees were paid by them. The ordeal was over. This hard fought case took just over 6 months to resolve.

Without the Video, what would have happened

It is impossible to know what would have happened to Mitch. It would have been his word against a mother and son, with an independent witness telling a version of events far worse for Mitch, but contradicted by the victims version of events. It is possible that a judge may have believed his version of events without the alleged victim’s video, but it is at least equally as likely that he would have failed in his immunity challenge. If so, the case would have gone to trial or Mitch would have had to enter a plea to a felony. Likely, Mitch would have agreed that he had nothing to lose by going to trial instead of pleaing to a felony and we would have had the opportunity to convince a jury that Mitch was acting in self-defense.

An uphill battle

Fortunately, on the recording Mitch could clearly be heard yelling “drop the weapon” numerous times after the alleged victim was heard to say, “I got something for him,” and the trunk was heard to open on the audio portion of the recording. Remember, no baseball bat was ever found. Whether it was thrown into the nearby woods or simply removed from the scene by family members who showed up before the police, we will never know, but without the recording, it would be Mitch’s word against the word of 3 people , the mother, the son, and the independent witness all of whom said Mitch had a gun and they were unarmed. Further, when the police arrived, they found Mitch’s weapons and no weapons belonging to the occupants of the other vehicle.

It can happen to you

As this example has shown a truly innocent person could have been convicted. The truth will not always set you free. In our justice system, it is evidence, not truth that is used to determine guilt or innocence. This is a case that easily could have turned out differently. Fortunately, we were able to find and use the evidence that showed Mitch acted purely in self-defense and the incident ended well for Mitch.

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