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Disobeying order to stay off phone justified disorderly conduct conviction

Facts

Mark Matthews and Brittany Sullivan had a daughter, Macy Kate, in 2008. Because they were not married, custody arrangements were established by a final judgment of filiation and support filed in Madison County Chancery Court, granting joint legal and physical custody to both parents. The custody agreement provided that Matthews had custody of Macy Kate on Wednesday nights and was to return her “the next morning at 7:30 a.m. or such time [that accommodated] both [parents’] travel to work.”

On the morning of Thursday, May 26, 2011, Matthews arrived at Brittany’s residence, which was also the residence of her mother, Pam Sullivan, to drop off Macy Kate. Matthews parked his vehicle at the curb, because he was required to park on the street and stay off the Sullivans’ property as a result of a trespassing conviction from a year earlier. Pam exited the house, and Matthews asked Pam where Brittany was.

Pam testified that she told him that Brittany had spent the night at her grandparents’ house. Pam walked to the rear passenger door of the vehicle and opened it to unbuckle Macy Kate from her car seat. Matthews, who had exited the vehicle, slammed the door on Pam, pinning her in the door. After a struggle, Pam freed herself from the door, removed Macy Kate, and walked onto her property, where Matthews was not allowed to go.

Pam called Madison Police Officer Mike Brown, who lived across the street. Matthews called the Madison police and reported that there had been domestic violence. Brown arrived to the Sullivans’ property, and shortly thereafter, Madison Police Officer Ryan Wigley arrived. Wigley approached Pam to begin his investigation; then, Matthews approached Brown and Wigley and Pam.

Wigley ordered Matthews to return to his vehicle. While returning to his vehicle, Matthews began making a phone call on his cell phone. Wigley ordered Matthews to not use his phone. Matthews responded that Wigley could not prevent him from using his phone. Wigley testified that he instructed Matthews not to use his cell phone as a safety precaution, as he did not know who Matthews was calling or why Matthews was making the phone call. As a result of Matthews’s refusal to stop using his cell phone, Wigley arrested him for disorderly conduct.

Pam filed an affidavit against Matthews for assault. Matthews was convicted of simple assault and disorderly conduct in the City of Madison Municipal Court and sentenced to 360 days. On appeal, he argued there was insufficient proof of either charge. MCOA affirmed.

Analysis

A. Assault

For the City of Madison to prove that Matthews committed simple assault, it was required to show that he: (a) attempted to cause or purposely, knowingly, or recklessly caused bodily injury to Pam; (b) negligently caused bodily injury to Pam with a deadly weapon or other means likely to produce death or serious bodily harm; or (c) attempted by physical menace to put Pam in fear of imminent serious bodily harm. Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-7(1)(a).

Both Matthews and Pam testified that Matthews pinned Pam in the door of his vehicle. Pam testified that she called out in pain several times. Pam also testified that she had bruises as a result of the incident. This issue is without merit.

Matthews also argues that there must be proof of bodily injury. Here, Pam testified that she screamed out in pain while being pinned in the door and that she told Matthews that he had hurt her. She also stated that she had bruises on her shoulder and down the side of her arm and had the skin scraped off her finger. There was ample testimony presented that Pam had suffered bodily injury.

B. Disorderly conduct

Under section 97-35-7(1)(i), Matthews was guilty of disorderly conduct if the City proved that, with intent to breach the peace, he failed or refused to promptly comply with or obey a request, command, or order of a law enforcement officer, having the authority to then and there arrest any person for a violation of the law.

While the subsection of the statute with which Matthews was charged was never stated, it was clear from the police report and the testimony by Wigley that the City was attempting to prove disorderly conduct under subsection (1)(i), which states a person’s conduct is disorderly if he refrained from acting or doing as ordered, requested or commanded by said officer to avoid any breach of the peace.

Wigley stated that he responded to the call. He began his investigation by interviewing Pam. As Matthews approached, Wigley instructed him to return to his car and to refrain from using his cell phone. Although Matthews began to return to his car, Matthews testified that he refused to refrain from using his cell phone.

Wigley testified that he instructed Matthews not to use his cell phone for the officers’ safety and for the safety of everyone at the scene. When Matthews failed to comply, Wigley stated, he arrested Matthews for officer safety and the safety of everyone there.

From the evidence presented, a reasonable finder of fact could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that Matthews was guilty of disorderly conduct. This issue is without merit.

 

https://courts.ms.gov/Images/Opinions/CO87332.pdf