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Kentucky Football: Analyzing Several Possible Criminal Charges Over The Airgun Incident

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Reports of possible serious criminal charges in the airgun incident seem overwrought.

Not exactly military grade.
Not exactly military grade.
Zach Petersen

The latest word concerning the four players who were disciplined for firing air guns on campus — Stanley "Boom" Williams, Drew Barker, Dorian Baker and Tymere Dubose — will be discussed between UK police and the Fayette County Attorney’s office sometime today, as reported earlier by Will. According to this report from Lex18:

The UK police chief has said charges of wanton endangerment and terroristic threatening are possible.

Okay, this would apparently be an exercise of state law, not local ordinances. I’m not buying either of these charges as reasonably possible unless there is something about this situation that we do not know, or that has been reported incorrectly. The elements that a prosecutor must prove for wanton endangerment is:

First degree (Class D felony)
  • Extreme indifference to the value of human life;
  • Wantonly engages in conduct
  • Which creates a substantial danger of
    • Death, or
    • Serious injury. [My emphasis]
Second degree (Class A misdemeanor)
  • Conduct which creates substantial danger of physical injury to another person [my emphasis]

I am not a lawyer, but it seems unlikely that an airsoft gun is capable of inflicting serious injury except under deliberate, rather than wanton circumstances. The first and third elements of the first degree crime, based on what has been reported, seem very unlikely to have any chance of being proved, because I don’t think the danger under the circumstances (pellets fired into the air) create a "substantial" danger of injury. Assuming (and this is a fairly big assumption) we know everything important, this would seem to be an extremely zealous charge with little chance of success at trial, although the second degree charge might have an outside chance.

The second statute mentioned is terroristic threatening:

Elements:

Third degree (Class A misdemeanor) Note: First and second degree terroristic threatening are not applicable to this case, as both require things like weapons of mass destruction or threats against teachers.
  • Threat to commit a crime likely to result in:

    • Death, or
    • Serious physical injury or
    • Substantial property damage or
  • Intentionally making false statements for the purpose of causing evacuation of:

    • a building or
    • a place of assembly or
    • facility of public transportation. [my emphasis]

As far as we know, there were never any threats or false statements made for any purpose. Without those elements, the crime could not be proved. An overt act that causes a building to be evacuated is not a statement or threat.

The best I can tell, their behavior violates the City of Lexington’s disorderly conduct ordinance:

Sec. 14-8. Disorderly conduct.
  • With intent to or wantonly creating a risk of public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm a person:
    • Engages in
      • Fighting or
      • Violence or
      • Tumultuous or
      • Threatening behavior or
    • Refuses to obey an official order to disperse or
    • Creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act that serves no legitimate purpose. [my emphasis]

That last element manifestly applies to their actions, chapter and verse. Also this:

Sec. 14-46. Same—Air rifles, air pistols, BB guns, or similar guns, slingshots or steel-tipped arrows, discharging within the urban county

That one is long, so I won’t list it here, but essentially, they violated several provisions of this ordinance which you can see by perusing it. There may also be other ordinances that could be applicable, I just picked the two that fit the best in my non-expert judgment.

It’s pretty clear that Commonwealth of Kentucky law is not really meant to address this situation, but the city ordinances are perfectly fit to do so. It seems to me that even the suggestion of such charges as terroristic threatening or wanton endangerment is both overkill and designed to make things look much worse than they are, probably in hopes of dissuading others from doing it. Hopefully, and again, assuming we know all of the relevant facts, there will be no overkill in this case. Fine them, let the school and team discipline them, and hopefully, lesson learned. Serious criminal charges appear to be inapplicable.

Comes now Matt Jones with an update:

That makes all the sense in the world.