According to reports, rapper-singers Drake and Chris Brown, along with their respective entourages, OD’d in testosterone and supposed manhood at Manhattan’s club W.I.P. Whether it was the result of one too many cocktail, it is alleged that Drake taunted Brown over the former’s “between the sheets dancing” with the over-hyped songstress, Rihanna. If reports are true, the sensitive Brown and sophomoric Drake engaged in bottle tossing mayhem that resulted in what appears to be some fairly serious injuries. Although this blog entry will not address the civil liability of SoHo’s club W.I.P. or the two Top 40 knuckleheads for the alleged brawl, there certainly could be arrest charges in Manhattan should the police and prosecutors be able to identify individuals and their conduct during the “chivalrous bout” over Rihanna’s honor.
If the police can identify the person who instigated the melee as well as those who were involved in and advanced the shenanigans, prosecutors must also be able to establish their respective actions. Not addressing all of the issues that would arise in a prosecution, what are some of the charges a defendant could face should everything fall into place for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office?
New York Misdemeanor Crimes
Assault in the Third Degree – New York Penal Law 120.00
Whether or not tossing a bottle and striking another person is considered reckless or intentional, if a defendant threw the bottle at a specific person or in a crowd and caused a physical injury to a person there, Third Degree Assault would be a viable offense. The “physical injury” standard in an NY PL 120.00 case is substantial pain. A cut to one’s scalp without stitches, a black eye or even a bloody swollen lip that causes substantial pain would likely be sufficient. The injury need not be horrific. Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree – New York Penal Law 265.01
A bottle is not a weapon, but when used as such it can certainly be considered a dangerous instrument. According to NY PL 265.01(2), if you possess a dangerous instrument (it need not be a knife or firearm) and you have the intent to use it unlawfully against another person, the elements of this crime are satisfied. Briefly, this dangerous instrument standard or definition includes any object that is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury. That dangerous instrument could be a frying pan, tire iron or bottle.
Second Degree Reckless Endangerment – New York Penal Law 120.20
If Drake or Chris Brown acted in such a reckless manner by tossing bottles and it created a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person, then this charge is a viable offense. There need not be a specific person that was the target of the bottle tossing nor is it required that a person was actually hurt.
Although not very likely, there is a chance that the bottle tossing revelers could also be charged with Riot in the Second Degree pursuant to New York Penal Law 240.05. In such a case, prosecutors must prove that a defendant, along with at least four other persons, engaged in violent behavior and as a result either intentionally or recklessly caused or created a grave risk of public alarm.
The crimes listed above – Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon and Third Degree Assault – are both “A” misdemeanors. Should anyone be convicted in the Drake-Brown Beatdown, they would face up to one year as a member of the Rikers Island Swim Team.
New York Felony Crimes Assault in the Second Degree – New York Penal Law 120.05
Second Degree Assault is a much more serious offense than the misdemeanors identified above. There are potentially a few possible subsections of this crime that could be applicable.
If prosecutors can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a bottle thrower or striker intended to cause serious physical injury and a person suffered a serious physical injury, this charge may be viable. Serious physical injury, unlike physical injury, includes injures that can cause long term impairment of one’s health or disfigurement. Terrible lacerations that scar one’s face would likely satisfy this injury element. In fact, the use of the bottle coupled with the serious physical injury would also likely satisfy the elements of First Degree Assault.
Another applicable subsection would be if a bottle thrower or striker merely intended to cause the lesser physical injury and did so with this dangerous instrument as defined above. The fact that a dangerous instrument was used would bump the crime up from a regular misdemeanor to a felony.
If a bottle thrower did not intentionally cause serious physical injury or aim for a particular person, his reckless actions will not necessarily provide him shelter from prosecution. If one recklessly causes serious physical injury to another person by means of a dangerous instrument, the Assault in the Second Degree felony may stick.
The felony charges identified above are “D” level crimes in New York. As such, a person can be sentenced to as much as seven years in prison. Keep in mind, assuming prosecutors can identify defendants, specific conduct and credible witnesses (a not so easy task), there may be other potential crimes that are even more serious. One of those crimes is First Degree Assault (New York Penal Law 120.10).
It is likely that detectives with the NYPD are pouring over video from inside and outside the club, speaking with witnesses and victims and questioning staff from W.I.P. Whether charges are brought or Australian tourist “Hollie C.” sues any of the parties or club, is yet to be seen.
To educate yourself about any of the crimes above or other violent crimes in New York, follow the highlighted links to New-York-Lawyers.org. Additionally, the Assault, Weapon Possession and Violent Crime sections of the NewYorkCriminalLawyerBlog.Com have analysis of statutes, legal decisions and cases in the news.
Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense law firm established by two former Manhattan prosecutors. The New York criminal lawyers at Saland Law PC represent clients in all stages of criminal investigations, arrests, indictments and trials.