WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court has upheld the stabbing conviction of a Cambridge man, overturning a lower court’s ruling that he was a victim of double jeopardy.
Kenneth Chatone Manokey, 45, argued that he could not have been guilty of first-degree assault in the stabbing of his former girlfriend, because the trial court dismissed a charge of reckless endangerment that he also faced in the case.
The two charges are essentially the same, he argued, and convicting him on one after dismissing the other amounted to double jeopardy, or being tried twice for the same crime.
But in a published opinion, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed Thursday, saying that reckless endangerment is a unique charge, and not an offense included in first-degree assault.
Manokey’s attorney, Justin Antonipillai, said he is not sure how his client will proceed.
“We didn’t agree with the opinion,” he said Friday. “We’re still investigating our next steps.”
Manokey was originally charged with first-degree assault, second degree-assault, wearing and carrying a dangerous weapon with intent to injure and reckless endangerment in the attack on his ex-girlfriend, which took place in Dorchester County.
At the end of his 1998 trail, the judge dismissed the weapons charge and the reckless endangerment charge. But a jury convicted him on the first-degree assault charge and he was sentenced to 25 years in prison, according to court documents.
On appeal, Manokey argued that there was not enough evidence to support his conviction. When that failed, he then claimed he was a victim of double jeopardy because the reckless endangerment charge had been dropped.
A series of state courts, all the way up to the Maryland Court of Appeals, rejected the double-jeopardy claim.
But the U.S. District Court in Maryland agreed that his Fifth Amendment right had been violated, and granted him the writ of habeas corpus.
The decision could have resulted in Manokey’s release from the Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown, where he is currently being held, but the district court stayed its decision until the appeals court looked at it.
The Attorney General’s Office appealed and the federal appeals court Thursday reversed the lower court’s decision.
In the opinion, the appeals panel agreed with a Maryland court’s conclusion that reckless endangerment and first-degree assault have different components.
Reckless endangerment requires proof that a reasonable person would not have engaged in conduct that created a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another. First-degree assault, on the other hand, requires proof that the contact was not consented to by the victim, the opinion said.
The attorney general’s office declined to comment on the case Friday.
-30- CNS 12-03-04