Monday, October 26, 2009
Kelly v Topinka: Yes, It Was Assault
The Illinois State Comptroller race has taken an unexpectedly weird turn. One of candidate Judy Baar Topinka's campaign staffers was caught on video assaulting cameraman Steve Ruggiero, who is also the campaign manager of William J. Kelly's campaign. Ruggiero was videotaping Kelly as he spoke to two news reporters on Sunday, Oct. 25. Kelly and Topinka are both running for the Republican nomination. Charges have been filed against the man by the Kelly campaign. Despite the overwhelming video evidence of the attack, some are actually asking, "was it really assault?" Well, yes, it sure as hell was. Watch for yourself :
I respectfully disagree with my friend, the great Warner Todd Huston and his defacto dismissal of the William J. Kelly campaign's accusations of assault against a Topinka campaign staffer. Warner wrote this on his Publius Forum blog on October 26:
When Kelly’s staffer turned his camcorder toward the man the Topinka operative manhandled the fellow’s camera.... But is it really “assault”? I fully agree that the Topinka operative had no business rough housing with the Kelly staffer.... But “assault”? I think Kelly took it a tad too far to actually files charges. It smacks too much of a stunt that way. Kelly has every legitimate reason to use this as an example of the sort of campaign that Topinka is running. But real assault? Hardly. Full Post...
Warner is an outstanding writer, so I was surprised by his own self-contradictions. Before we get into that, however, we should understand the definition of assault:
Assault is an act that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent, harmful, or offensive contact. The act consists of a threat of harm accompanied by an apparent, present ability to carry out the threat. Battery is a harmful or offensive touching of another. [Source]
A crime that occurs when one person tries to physically harm another in a way that makes the person under attack feel immediately threatened. Actual physical contact is not necessary; threatening gestures that would alarm any reasonable person can constitute an assault. Assault is often charged with battery, which requires intended physical contact. (See also: battery) [Source]
Assault, then, does not involve physical contact. That's battery. Now look at the video again and watch the man make a threatening gesture that would alarm any reasonable person. I've met Steve Ruggiero and he strikes me as quite reasonable. Ruggiero says he was alarmed. Therefore, assault occured, and it's nicely caught on video in broad daylight.
Back, now, to Warner's self-contradictions. After asking the question "Is it 'Assault'?" Warner wrote that "the Topinka operative manhandled the fellow’s camera" and followed that statement with "But is it really 'assault'?" I'm not sure how one manhandles another person's camera without assault being involved, but the definition above does allow for that possibility. But even without assault, manhandling would be battery. So why does Warner dismiss the Kelly campaign's charges so lightly?
Warner continued with, "I fully agree that the Topinka operative had no business rough housing with the Kelly staffer.... But 'assault'?" Again, what does Warner think assault is? "Rough housing" without assault seems a virtual impossibility. Warner then wrote that he thinks "Kelly took it a tad too far to actually files charges. It smacks too much of a stunt that way," yet immediately contradicts that with "Kelly has every legitimate reason to use this as an example of the sort of campaign that Topinka is running." Well, which is it? If somebody commits assault and/or battery on you, do you have less of a right to file charges just because you're involved with a political campaign? After all that, and after (presumably) viewing the video of the incident, Warner asks yet again, "But real assault? Hardly."
Yes, it was real assault. Verily.
ALSO SEE: The Topinka-Kelly Street Brawl
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