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COA: Intimidation statute doesn’t require detailed timeline of threat

August 4, 2016

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a man’s intimidation conviction, finding it was reasonable for the jury to conclude that the defendant threatened the victim for interrupting an argument.

While waiting for a table at an Elkhart restaurant, Justin Beegle intervened in an argument between Harold Chastain and Tracy Wilmore in the parking lot after Beegle saw Chastain shove Wilmore. Beegle and Chastain exchanged some argumentative words and Chastain went to his truck, got his gun, cocked it and pointed it at Beegle, saying “I’ll f-----g kill you,” several times. Chastain then got into his truck and drove away.

Chastain was charged with and convicted of Class C felony intimidation, Class D felony pointing a firearm, and Class B misdemeanor battery, for shoving Wilmore. The charging information did not specify what prior act Beegle allegedly had engaged in for which Chastain intended to place Beegle in fear of retaliation. The prosecutor argued at trial that the prior lawful act was Beegle’s interruption of the fight.

Chastain appealed the intimidation conviction, arguing insufficient evidence. The Court of Appeals cited Roar v. State, 52 N.E.3d 940 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016), which the Indiana Supreme Court recently granted transfer to and adopted the COA’s holding. In Roar, a defendant, in seeing the victim serve an eviction notice on his sister, yelled at the victim and threatened to kill her if she came back to the property. The Roar majority held that “Mere use of conditional language in the course of communicating a threat does not vitiate the statute’s application when the factual predicate for the threat was a prior lawful act of the victim.”

“[W]e conclude it was reasonable to infer from the evidence that Chastain’s actions were prompted by the initial lawful act of Beegle interrupting his argument with Wilmore, and Chastain’s threat was communicated with the intent to place Beegle in fear for that act. There is nothing in the intimidation statute that requires a defendant to expressly state what the victim’s prior lawful act was for which a defendant intends to retaliate,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote in Harold E. Chastain v. State of Indiana, 20A03-1510-CR-1839.

“Furthermore, as a matter of public policy, we believe that persons in a position like that in which Beegle found himself should be able to attempt to defuse situations like the one between Chastain and Wilmore without being threatened with the use of deadly force for doing so. We believe the legislature intended to criminalize such conduct when it enacted the intimidation statute,” Barnes continued.

“We conclude that, as held by this court in Roar and as adopted by our supreme court, a conviction under the intimidation statute should not depend upon a precise parsing of the threatening language used by a defendant or a detailed timeline of when a threat was issued in relation to a prior lawful act. Here, it is clear that Beegle engaged in a prior lawful act, and there was a clear nexus between that act and Chastain’s threat to kill Beegle while pointing a gun at him.”


 

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