When one watches Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC) pushing a camera, grabbing a college student by the arm, collaring him around the neck, and finally hugging him to his body in order to threaten him for information about his identity, one thing becomes absolutely clear: this guy is a moron.
Well, something else also becomes clear: Etheridge is guilty of criminal assault under Washington D.C. law. DC Criminal Code 22-404(a)(1) dictates, “Whoever unlawfully assaults, or threatens another in a menacing manner, shall be fined not more than $1,000 or be imprisoned not more than 180 days, or both.” Generally, assault requires four elements: (1) ability to carry out a threat (i.e. Stephen Hawking threatening you with a personal kick to the jaw would probably not constitute assault); (2) an unlawful attempt (the perp actually has to try to do something); (3) to commit a violent injury; (4) upon someone else (you can’t assault yourself – duh).
All of the elements are clearly fulfilled here. The movement toward hitting the camera, the attempt to grab the student, the attempt to collar the student, the achievement of those goals – all constitute simple assault. One of the most common defenses to assault is consent – if you’re an S&M freak, for example, you’re going to have trouble claiming assault. But in this case, the kid is telling the Congressman to let him go, and actually threatens to sue him. The Congressman doesn’t comply. And he doesn’t get immunity just because he’s a Congressman – Congressional immunity only applies to speech during Congressional debate, not to grabbing students by their necks. If it did, Teddy Kennedy would have had to worry a whole hell of a lot less during his profligate lifetime.
So, will the DC police do anything about it? Will Nancy Pelosi’s ethics committee do anything about it? Or will they claim it’s just another taped hoax, and ignore the dangerous and volatile behavior of one of their caucus members?