Elderly Florida Man Charged With Committing Aggravated Battery On Elderly Man To Maintain Social Distancing

images-1There 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.

40 thoughts on “Elderly Florida Man Charged With Committing Aggravated Battery On Elderly Man To Maintain Social Distancing”

  1. Stand your ground is one thing. But does everyone have the right to 113 square feet whenever they’re in a public space?

    A=PI * radius squared – PI*36 = 113

    1. That would be 113 square inches — if you are using feet then that would be 9.42 square feet 😊 sorry the teacher in me couldn’t let it go

  2. Jonathan: It must be a slow news day when you dedicate your post to two elderly gentlemen in an altercation over social distancing in an elevator in Florida. There are other significant incidents that deserve more of your attention. Case in point: Back on 5/29 in Omaha Jake Gardner, a white bar owner. shot and killed James Scurlock, a 22 yr. old Black protester who was participating in the second night of nationwide protests. Gardner, an ex-Marine who had an expired concealed carry permit, was questioned by police and released the following day without being booked. Within 36 hours the local county prosecutor announced that no criminal charges would be filed against Gardner because he claimed self defense. Scurlock was unarmed. The rush to judgment came despite the fact that many people who witnessed the incident tried to contact police to give their accounts but were ignored. The quick decision not to file charges drew outrage in the Black community in Omaha who claimed the killing of Scurlock was just another example of ingrained police racism. They simply accepted Gardner’s version without interviewing all the witnesses or investigate Gardner’s background or reputation in the community. Former employees and patron’s of Gardner’s bar say he often used racist language–frequently using the N-word. They say he also practiced racial discriminatory policies in admitting people of color in his bar. Family members say Gardner was raised in a racist family culture. One family member said: “He (Gardner) was raised in an absolutely steaming giant pot of racism”.

    Although all the facts surrounding this incident are still being investigated it appears there were many protesters in front Gardner’s bar when he came out brandishing an illegal gun. According to the police Gardner fired 2 “warning shots”. At this point witnesses say they became alarmed and thought someone should disarm Gardner. Scurlock did just that tackling Gardner and wrestling him to the ground. Gardner immediately shot and killed Spurlock. Don Kleine, the county attorney was under intense pressure for his initial rush to judgment and finally agreed to convene a grand jury to investigate the incident. Nebraska state Sen. Megan Hunt summed up the killing of Scurlock: By “refusing to charge Jake Gardner with a crime, the county attorney, Don Kleine, has really taken the side of Jake, and he’s saying basically that a white man’s right to run in the streets with an illegal gun supersedes an unarmed Black man’s right to protest”.

    Yes, Jonathan, “the world has gone mad”. Both in Florida and in Omaha. Maybe this is the case you should present to your criminal law students and see whether they think an admitted racist carrying an illegal gun is entitled to shoot and kill a Black man and should be entitled to claim “self defense”.

    1. Hey McIntyre give us the statistics on how many black arsonists have been charged for lighting America’s cities on fire.

      Or white Antifa freaks, either; whomever was doing it.

      or haven’t police bothered to try and find out? Ask yourself why. And ask yourself how long you can last if police are defunded and disbanded.
      Or are you so rich you can afford a continuous personal security detail?

      I figure for 3 shifts a day that will run you at least $120,000 a year. If you can find a security team worth a snot which is content to be paid $40,000 each a year.
      Dang some of you guys must be really rich.

    2. Your version is a bit flaky too. I set down here one of the major flaws in your analysis: Most of us wouldn’t bother to try to disarm a bar owner who had just fired two ‘warning’ shots as you yourself put it. We’d merely leave, find somebody more amenable to harass. The best face we could put on your version would be ‘Quixotic’. Other flaws in your thesis too numerous to set down here. I mean this helpfully so you can do a corrected, more balanced rewrite.

    3. Your version of events does not square with the report in the Daily Beast, in which the police refer to a video of the confrontation. Scurlock reportedly jumped on Gardner from the back as he was returning to the bar. Sorry bro, that’s self defense and THAT’s the reason the charges were dismissed. It’s absolutely idiotic to attack a person with a gun. That makes the gun in play and the attacked person MUST assume his life is in peril. That’s the same reason you don’t fight with cops b/c there is always a gun in play and they will treat it as a life and death struggle for the gun and do whatever they need to detain you. That’s not police brutality.

      Story: https://www.thedailybeast.com/omaha-bar-owner-jake-gardner-held-in-shooting-of-black-protester-james-scurlock-has-gun-arrests

      Furthermore, whether or not Gardner is a racist has no bearing on the fatal confrontation. Even if he is really a racist, he still has the same rights as everyone else.

      Lastly, it’s very bad manners of you to criticize our host for his selection of news to comment on. I don’t always like his choices or his opinions, but this is his house and if you don’t like what’s being served you are free to go elsewhere.

  3. I live in Florida and am 73 years old. Some senior citizens here have gone off the deep end regarding this virus and the restrictions and specifically the wearing of masks. The other day one of these seniors chastised me for not wearing a mask and I was at a minimum ten feet from him. I told him he needed to walk around with a six foot ruler and keep his mouth shut, that way he will minimize the chance of being infected

    1. Living in NM and being 76 years of age, I appreciated learning of an unusual statute that protects the “elderly,” as in 65+. I believe that the facts supporting an alleged violation are also anecdotal evidence of the madness we are witnessing – many times a day.

  4. When “push comes to shove” comes to mind. A simple “push” or “shove” can be lethal to an elderly victim, or at the least quite serious (e.g.the 75 year old pushed out of the way by a phalanx of riot police in Buffalo last month.). The statute doesn’t require mens rea, it is the shove that counts. Should the perpetrator skate because his violence didn’t cause serious harm? What if, God forbid, his victim was injured? At the miscreant’s age he should have known better, and should face the music. He may be able to plead to lesser crime, but he did commit a crime.

  5. You said it so well, Professor Turley, the world has gone mad. Now, if the US had a decent, intelligent and less narcissistic leader both here and elsewhere, the world may look less ‘mad’ in two different interpretations of the the word ‘mad’: crazy and angry.

  6. Let’s see…. Jeffrey Epstein got a free pass in south florida and 48 prospective young females were denied their day in court, but bump somebody in an elevator because of social distancing…..this will go all the way to the Supremes!

  7. I can see the Stand Your Ground defense used. Both are in the higher risk group just because of age. If the defendant has more comorbidities, it raises his risk statistically higher.

    I an surprised they are charging this. I have been brushed by harder by pedestrians on NY sidewalks.

  8. Who brought the charge and why.

    By the way, Gross is violating social distancing for the babe he’s coming on to.

  9. This what the left wants – for us to turn against each other. Chalk up another victory to the part of “tolerance.”

    1. This leftie just wants not to be targeted by the ignorant, extremists that bundle anyone with who they don’t agree into the left or the right, because they are too paranoid to settle back and let the big picture reveal itself. We’re all bozos on this bus.

      What if both men were Trump dupes, right wing extremists, fringe madness?

      1. It doesn’t matter if both of these guys are on the right or left. You have it completely backwards. These two fellas likely wouldn’t have gotten into a fight except for all of the discord in our current times. It’s the left that has been promoting identity politics for the last few years and fomenting racial hatred for decades. This is what we get – less tolerance by focusing on our differences.

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