There is a truly bizarre criminal case out of South Beach in Miami. Nachem Gross, 72, is charged with aggravated battery for an attack on Gerald Steiglitz, 86, in an elevator. Putting aside the fact that both are elderly, the battery was an effort of Gross to maintain social distancing to avoid Covid-19. The incident was caught on video. The world has gone completely mad.
In the video from the 44-story Portofino Tower in South Beach, Gross successfully waves off a young woman who tried to enter the elevator. When it came to ejecting or blocking Steiglitz, Gross seems to struggle with how to shove back the man in a Covit-19 way. He ends up using his elbow like a variation of a Covit handshake.
Gross, who is elderly, faces an aggravated charge due to the victim being elderly. Presumably, the same conduct would not have been charged as an aggravated battery if he shoved away the young woman on the preceding floor.
The concept of a battery to preserve social distancing may seem a tad odd, but Gross’ attorney, Michael Grieco, says that “This is a straight-up Stand Your Ground self-defense case.” This needs some unpacking. The idea is that you can stand your ground to prevent the statistically small chance of contraction (with all masked individuals) by physically assaulting a person to maintain social distancing. This logic by the way sends you to a police station with a far greater chance of exposure to the virus.
If the virus does not cause permanent damage, working through that logic will.
The shove is not forceful but it was enough to send the 86 year old into a hallway table where he suffered a bruise. To his credit, Gross does get out of the elevator to check on Steiglitz.
Gross is now facing a third-degree felony.
The relevant provision appears to be:
784.08 Assault or battery on persons 65 years of age or older; reclassification of offenses; minimum sentence.—
(1) A person who is convicted of an aggravated assault or aggravated battery upon a person 65 years of age or older shall be sentenced to a minimum term of imprisonment of 3 years and fined not more than $10,000 and shall also be ordered by the sentencing judge to make restitution to the victim of such offense and to perform up to 500 hours of community service work. Restitution and community service work shall be in addition to any fine or sentence which may be imposed and shall not be in lieu thereof.
(2) Whenever a person is charged with committing an assault or aggravated assault or a battery or aggravated battery upon a person 65 years of age or older, regardless of whether he or she knows or has reason to know the age of the victim, the offense for which the person is charged shall be reclassified as follows:(a) In the case of aggravated battery, from a felony of the second degree to a felony of the first degree.(b) In the case of aggravated assault, from a felony of the third degree to a felony of the second degree.(c) In the case of battery, from a misdemeanor of the first degree to a felony of the third degree.(d) In the case of assault, from a misdemeanor of the second degree to a misdemeanor of the first degree.(3) Notwithstanding the provisions of s. 948.01, adjudication of guilt or imposition of sentence shall not be suspended, deferred, or withheld.
It obviously will not result in any likely jail time and could be dropped entirely as leveler heads prevail. It seems to me that Gross was wrong to physically shove Steiglitz but the shove was relatively modest and the intent was not to harm. Steiglitz’s age no doubt contributed to the instability, but this hardly seems a matter for the criminal code.