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North Carolina man faces felony assault charges

A charge of assault with a deadly weapon usually conjures to mind the scene of a confrontation with a gun or possibly a blunt instrument.

However, a recent prosecution illustrates that the charge can be applied in other contexts, as well -- including an amusement park. Specifically, a ride operator at the North Carolina State fair recently was charged with the felony-level crime after he allegedly injured five exiting passengers.

The ride, which is called the Vortex, operates like a pendulum, flipping passengers upside down while it swings. According to witnesses, some passengers were thrown off the ride after it began malfunctioning. Others appeared to be desperately hanging on, even though they should have been strapped into their seats.

According to local authorities, the ride displayed signs of tampering. Based on that alleged compromise of the ride’s safety devices, authorities arrested the 46-year-old ride operate on felony assault charges.

The extent of the injuries sustained by the five passengers is unclear, although authorities report that two were released from the hospital later in the evening. The state of the other three is unknown, although their injuries could be severe. At least one witness reports seeing several passengers lying motionless on the ground after they were thrown from the ride.

Under North Carolina law, charges of assault with a deadly weapon are more serious than simple assault. Whereas a simple bar fight might result in misdemeanor assault charges, an assault with a deadly weapon can be at the level of a felony. State law defines the punishments that correspond to assault charges, but not necessarily the distinctions between the different kinds of assaults. As a result, prosecutors might have a great deal of discretion in bringing assault charges against a criminal defendant. 

Source: abcnews.go.com, “NC Ride Operator Charged With Assault With Deadly Weapon,” Dean Schabner, Anthony Castellano, Rebecca Lee and Michael Howard, Oct. 26, 2013 

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