Man Found Not Guilty of Assaulting Smokies Park Ranger

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Man Found Not Guilty of Assaulting Smokies Park Ranger

Postby Todd » Sat Apr 04, 2009 10:33 pm

Man found not guilty of assaulting park ranger

By Jamie Satterfield (Contact)
Saturday, April 4, 2009

A mentally unstable man caught cooking a potato over an illegal fire in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not guilty of assaulting a ranger but insanity has nothing to do with his innocence, a federal judge has ruled.

Senior U.S. District Judge Leon Jordan has acquitted Phillip Lynn Sheets at the behest of Assistant Federal Defender Jonathan Moffatt, who argued that Sheets did not attack National Park Service Ranger William Ramsey in the June 2007 incident as had been alleged in a federal indictment.

Jordan, who heard testimony from rangers and viewed videotapes of the encounter, ruled that Sheets never posed a threat of imminent danger as required under the particular law that federal prosecutors had charged him under.

According to Jordan's description of the encounter, Sheets had set up a makeshift campsite alongside a creek and was cooking a potato over a fire he had built in a tree stump. When Ramsey told him to douse the flames, Sheets brandished a pocket knife and pointed it at the ranger, but at the time Ramsey was some 30 feet up an embankment from Sheets, the judge noted.

Sheets did not threaten Ramsey, who told a dispatcher he was in no danger but needed backup, but instead called him a "war criminal" in violation of the Geneva Conventions, Jordan wrote.

"Given the distance and terrain, (Sheets) did not have the present ability to harm the ranger, nor was Ranger Ramsey reasonably in fear of immediate bodily harm," the judge opined.

When backup rangers arrived, Sheets folded the knife, put it in his pocket, told the rangers he was leaving and then began to walk away but fell in the creek, the judge said.

Although Sheets struggled as the rangers tried to handcuff him, he repeatedly said he was "giving up" and has never been charged with resisting arrest, Jordan noted.

Sheets, who has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, could have claimed an insanity defense based on earlier psychological testing had Jordan not tossed the case.

Source: http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2009/apr/0 ... rk-ranger/
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"Nothing is easier than spending public money. It does not appear to belong to anybody. The temptation is overwhelming to bestow it on somebody." Calvin Coolidge
Todd
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