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Sixth Circuit Upholds Prisoner’s 18 U.S.C. § 111 Conviction for Assaulting Federally Contracted Private Prison Guard

Federal prisoner Derrick Grant was awaiting sentencing for an armed robbery conviction at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, a privately owned and operated prison, when he decided to punch the next guard he saw. He walked up to a female guard and punched her in the face, which caused bruising on her neck and jaw. He was charged with assaulting a designated person under § 111, eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 40 months’ imprisonment consecutive to his robbery term. With the assistance of Cincinnati attorney Anna M. Greve of Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, he appealed.

The Sixth Circuit noted that 18 U.S.C. §§ 111 and 1114 criminalize assaulting “any officer or employee of the United States … or any person assisting such an officer or employee in the performance of such duties.” It rejected Grant’s argument that the guard was not covered by § 111 because she was not assisting a specific employee, but was contracted to assist an agency, the U.S. Marshals Service.

The court held that Grant’s argument was foreclosed by United States v. Bedford, 914 F.3d 422 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 139 S.Ct. 1366 (2019), which determined that § 111 applied to a contract carrier delivering mail for the U.S. Postal Service. Further, every circuit court that had addressed the issue, the 4th, 5th, 8th and 10th Circuits, had held that § 111 included guards who supervised prisoners pursuant to a contract with the Marshals Service.

Related legal case

United States v. Grant