According to the Centre Daily Times, a Penn State student was physically assaulted and suffered a skull fracture. It is alleged that the student was only struck one time, but the punch caused the Penn State student to fall and most likely strike his head on the road or sidewalk. The Penn State student ultimately flown to Geisinger Medical Center to treat his serious head injuries.
Pennsylvania Aggravated Assault Charge
In Pennsylvania, a felony charge of Aggravated Assault generally requires evidence that the attacker intended to cause a serious bodily injury or acted recklessly in causing a serious bodily injury. In the current State College assault investigation discussed above, the issue becomes whether or not the attacker acted "recklessly" in causing a serious bodily injury. Recklessly is defined under the law as consciously disregarding a known risk. In this situation, the question then is whether the person throwing the punch consciously disregarded the risk that the punch could result in serious bodily injury. There is no doubt that the Penn State student that was attacked suffered a serious bodily injury.
One Punch Can Be Aggravated Assault in Pennsylvania
A relatively recent case in Pennsylvania upheld a conviction of Aggravated Assault in a case in which the attacker threw one punch. The vast majority of one punch incidents only result in the filing of misdemeanor Simple Assault charges because the victim does not suffer a serious bodily injury. The one punch incidents that result in Aggravated Assault charges arise when the victim suffers a serious bodily injury after being knocked unconscious and then striking their head on the ground. In these cases, there is no doubt that the victim suffered a serious bodily injury, but the injury resulted from the fall and not the punch itself.
In the case that upheld the Aggravated Assault conviction based upon one punch, the court noted the following facts: the attacker was much larger than the victim; the attacker was ten years younger than the victim; the victim was "sucker punched", meaning not prepared to be struck in the head; and, after the victim fell the ground and had blood coming from his head and nose, the victim made taunting statements. The court placed great emphasis on the fact that the punch appeared to be unexpected by the victim, and the "cheap shot" nature of the punch. The court also drew additional attention to the "gleeful remarks" of the criminal defendant after viewing the victim's injuries and mentioned that the statements evidenced that the defendant had intended to severely injure the victim.
State College Assault Investigation
I wonder whether this State College assault investigation will result in the filing of felony Aggravated Assault or misdemeanor Simple Assault charges. If the victim was actively engaging in a verbal and physical altercation, then it is less likely that the victim can claim that he was "sucker punched", and it then becomes more likely that the attacker would be charged with Simple Assault. However, if the victim was sucker punched, and if the attacker made disparaging comments after observing the injury, then Pennsylvania case law clearly supports Aggravated Assault charges being filed in this State College criminal case.