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Wolf v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

May 5, 2017

Melvin Wolf, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

         Appeal from the Clark Circuit Court The Honorable Vicki Carmichael, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 10C04-1306-FC-164

          Attorney for Appellant Larry O. Wilder Jeffersonville, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Matthew B. MacKenzie Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          May, Judge.

         [¶1] Melvin Wolf appeals his conviction of Class A misdemeanor battery.[1] He argues the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction.[2] We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

          [¶2] On May 26, 2013, Melvin Wolf was at the Charlestown Speedway in Charlestown, Indiana, to watch his adult son, Patrick, participate in a midget car race. During the race, another driver, Kevin Blue, collided with Patrick, impeding his progress in the race. Wolf observed the collision during the race. Blue subsequently beat Patrick in the race.

         [¶3] After the race finished, Blue drove to the weigh-in area of the racing pit and exited his vehicle. Wolf moved from the bleacher area where he had been watching and made his way to the racing pits to see Patrick. Wolf had a pit pass that allowed him access to the racing pits. On the way to meet his son, Wolf saw Blue in the weigh-in area. Wolf approached Blue and called him profane names. Blue turned around and told Wolf to "get out of [his] face, " (Tr. at 25), but Wolf continued yelling profanities and then punched Blue. A scuffle ensued until both parties were pulled apart. Another race driver, Logan Arnold, pulled off the race track and exited his vehicle just as Wolf and Blue began fighting. Arnold "heard screaming, looked over, " and saw Wolf and Blue on the ground. (Id. at 49.) He saw Wolf "on top of [Blue]." (Id.)

         [¶4] After Wolf and Blue were pulled apart, Wolf went to Patrick's pit area. A race official approached Wolf and informed him he was being suspended for three races for hitting someone. Wolf then walked to his car and left the speedway with his wife. Arnold followed Wolf to his vehicle, wrote down Wolf's license plate number, and called the police.

         [¶5] In response to the call, Officer Scott Johns of the Clark County Sheriff's Office arrived at the race track. Johns observed "swelling, redness, and an abrasion" to Blue's nose, and a "softball size knot in the center of [Blue's] back." (App. Vol. II at 12.) Blue told Officer Johns he was standing in the weigh-in area after the race "talking with those around him when he turned around and [an] older heavy set man punched him in the nose causing him to fall flat on his back." (Id.) Per Blue's account in the report, the man "got on top of him and continued to punch him until the other people standing around pulled the suspect off." (Id.) Blue indicated he had never seen the man before, but several others identified the person who attacked Blue as Wolf.

         [¶6] Blue went to the Saint Catherine Regional Hospital to receive treatment for his injuries. As a result of the altercation, Blue sustained a bruised, bloody nose and a lump on his lower back. Blue underwent CT scans of his face and lumbar spine, and he received an ice pack and pain medication. Officer Johns met with Blue at the hospital and photographed Blue's injuries. On June 7, 2013, the State charged Wolf with Class A misdemeanor battery.

         [¶7] On June 9, 2016, the trial court held a bench trial. The trial court heard testimony from Officer Johns, Blue, Arnold, and Wolf. When Blue testified, he again stated Wolf punched him in the nose, but denied "fall[ing] flat on [his] back, " as written in Officer Johns' police report. (Tr. at 40.) Wolf's counsel questioned Blue on the inconsistency between Blue's testimony and Blue's prior statement at an August 6, 2015, deposition[3] wherein Blue verified the accuracy of the police report stating Blue "[fell] flat on his back." (Id. at 40-41.) Wolf's counsel also noted other inconsistencies between Blue's testimony and his prior statements at the deposition, such as Blue's testimony that he put Wolf in a "choke-hold." (Id. at 43.)

         [¶8] Wolf asserted self-defense. Wolf testified he approached Blue, but only to "call him a dirty name." (Id. at 65.) Wolf admitted he hit Blue, but he claimed he did so only after Blue grabbed his shirt. Wolf's counsel moved for judgment on the evidence, arguing Blue was the aggressor because he grabbed Wolf's shirt and Wolf had the right to defend himself.

         [¶9] At the conclusion of the bench trial, the court denied Wolf's motion for judgment on the evidence, rejected Wolf's self-defense claim, and found Wolf guilty of Class A misdemeanor battery. The court sentenced ...

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