Following her March 4 arrest for public intoxication, 31-year-old Toni Tramel was conveyed to the Daviess County Detention Center in Owensboro, Kentucky. Deputy Lula Brown informed the prisoner that she would have to change from her street clothes into a green jail smock.
Although she was apparently too inebriated to accomplish that task, Tramel retained sufficient coordination to carry out an ill-advised prank: As Brown approached her, Tramel — a nursing mother — unloaded a lacteal salvo, spraying the surprised and disgusted prison guard “in the face and neck region.”
Tramel’s conduct is — to say no more — not what one would expect of a conscientious mother. However, any reasonable person would find it difficult to describe her jailhouse prank — barbarous though it was — as a felony.
Despite the fact that Tramel had not laid a finger on Deputy Brown, she was charged with third degree felony assault for the act of staining Brown’s sanctified costume with a liquid described as a “biohazard.”
This may be the first time that mother’s milk has been defined as an instrument of assault (which suggests interesting possibilities regarding concealed weapons charges). However, others have been convicted of hands-off “felonious assault” against police officers: Spitting on police officers — a vulgar and unhealthy act which is considered “simple assault” when the victim is a Mundane — is treated as felonious “aggravated assault” when the target wears the habiliments of the punitive caste.
An LRC reader points out that spraying another person with a bodily fluid can result in the transmission of “all sorts of fun diseases, some lethal.” When the assailant carries a transmissible disease, such as Hepatitis C, he continues, that action should be treated as a felonious assault — a form of aggressive, unjustified physical contact that imperils the life of another human being.
This is reasonable, of course. What I find unacceptable — albeit tragically predictable — is the idea that the act is weighted differently when the victim is a police officer. Thus in the case of Toni Tramel the key question should be whether she carried a transmissible disease and knowingly exposed Deputy Brown to it, rather than whether Tramel’s victim was a police officer or a Mundane.
10:37 pm on March 8, 2010 Email William Norman Grigg