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United States v. Wallace

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

March 28, 2017

United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
Krystal Wallace Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: December 16, 2016

         Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas - Little Rock

          Before WOLLMAN and SMITH, [1] Circuit Judges, and WRIGHT, [2] District Judge.

          SMITH, Circuit Judge.

          A jury convicted Krystal Wallace of assaulting a federal officer with her car. At trial, Wallace sought to admit her videotaped statement about the incident, but the district court[3] excluded it as cumulative. At sentencing, the court calculated Wallace's Guidelines range as 188-235 months' imprisonment, but it varied downward to 48 months. Wallace contends that there was not enough evidence to convict her, that her videotaped statement should not have been excluded, and that the district court erred in calculating her Guidelines range and imposed an unreasonable sentence. We affirm.

         I. Background

         A. The Veterans Administration Incident

         On March 3, 2010, Wallace drove her sister Kimberly to the Veterans Administration (VA) hospital in Little Rock. They were driving a friend's 1990s Honda Accord. Two of Wallace's daughters and her ex-boyfriend accompanied them. Wallace believed that Kimberly wanted to visit her friend who worked there as a security guard. They arrived around 2:30 p.m. and parked. Kimberly got out of the car and went inside. Wallace and her ex-boyfriend also got out and began to argue. The ex-boyfriend eventually left on foot. Wallace got back in the car. Then Kimberly returned to the car visibly shaken. She got in and said, "Let's go."

         As Wallace began to backup, she saw a man approaching from the right. Wallace heard someone yelling, "Stop the car, turn off the car." The man came up to the front of the car and jumped on the hood. Wallace assumed that the man was Kimberly's security-guard friend. She believed that he posed a threat to Kimberly because he acted aggressively. Wallace's children began screaming, and Wallace exclaimed to the man: "Get off the car, are you crazy, get the hell off my car." The man asked if Wallace was going to stop the car. She again told him to get off the car but agreed to stop. According to Wallace, at that point the man got off the car, and she resumed backing out. But the man jumped back onto her hood. Wallace continued backing out anyway and then abruptly stopped, causing the man to slide off the hood. Wallace did not check on the man's condition but immediately sped away from the VA.

         Wallace later learned that the man on her hood was a federal police officer named Mark Atlas. Atlas was trying to get Wallace to stop because he was pursuing Kimberly, whom he suspected was panhandling. Atlas testified that when someone reported the possible panhandling, he followed Kimberly toward the car and said: "Stop. Police. Stop." Kimberly kept walking and got in Wallace's car. Atlas then stepped in front of the car and told Wallace, the driver, to "Shut the vehicle off. Get out of the vehicle. Police." He was yelling and banging on the hood. When Wallace did not comply, Atlas grabbed his gun. When he saw the kids, though, he holstered it and told Wallace again to shut the car down. But the car lunged forward toward Atlas, who, in his words "instinctively jumped, and I landed on the hood." Atlas jumped on the hood to avoid being struck as "[t]he vehicle came at me."

         Atlas injured his left side when he tumbled from Wallace's car. He experienced severe pain and some bruising. The emergency room doctor prescribed a narcotic for the pain and advised over-the-counter muscle relaxers. Atlas was at the hospital no more than four hours.

         After leaving the VA, Wallace had time to consider the events and her actions. Within an hour, she drove to a police station and gave a voluntary statement recounting the incident. She told a VA investigator that she was not trying to hurt anyone. She explained her behavior as panic caused by misunderstanding the actions of the man who jumped on her car while her kids were in the backseat.

         B. The Criminal Case

         The government charged Wallace with violating 18 U.S.C. § 111(a)(1) and (b) by assaulting an on-duty federal officer with a deadly or dangerous weapon (her car) and causing bodily injury. Before trial, the government asked the court to suppress, as hearsay, a videotaped statement that Wallace gave at the police station. The district court granted the motion, but it clarified on the morning of trial that its ruling was "preliminary . . . and subject to change based on what happens during the trial." Wallace testified at trial. She talked about her statement to the VA investigator and introduced a short written version of her statement as evidence. Then Wallace moved to introduce the whole videotaped statement as well. The government opposed the motion, arguing that the video would improperly bolster Wallace's testimony and would be cumulative of the ...

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