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Chief Keef Robbery & Assault Criminal Case – Understanding the Elements of a Crime
Hip-Hop artist Keith Cozart, with the stage name Chief Keef, was arrested on January 18th for alleged robbery and assault on his former Music producer Ramsey The Great. This took place at Ramsey’s house in Los Angeles. Cozart allegedly broke into the home with other accomplices and held Ramsey at gunpoint with AK-47. Ramsey alleges that he was robbed of money, a Rolex, watch and other valuables. In addition, Ramsey states that he was hit with the butt of the gun wielded by Cozart. Cozart, along with two others, were arrested at his home in Tarzana by the LAPD with no struggle.
Robbery in California is defined as, “The felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear.” Cal. Penal Code Ann. § 211 (West). By looking at the California Criminal Jury Instructions, it is seen that this crime is broken down into five key elements. (1) The defendant took property that was not (his/her) own; (2) The property was taken from another person’s possession and immediate presence; (3) The property was taken against that person’s will; (4) The defendant used force or fear to take the property or to prevent the person from resisting; AND (5) When the defendant used force or fear to take the property, (he/she) intended to deprive the owner of it permanently/ [or] to remove it from the owner’s possession for so extended a period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property. The prosecution is going to have to show beyond a reasonable doubt that Cozart completed all five of these elements in order to convict him of the robbery. Also, there are two degrees of robbery, first and second. Therefore, there are five elements that need to be fulfilled to be convicted of robbery.
In addition to the robbery charge, Cozart is looking at an assault with a firearm charge, which is defined as, “Any person who commits an assault upon the person of another with a firearm shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for not less than six months and not exceed one year, or by both a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000) and imprisonment. Cal. Pen. Code.” § 245. Also, California law defines an “assault” as an unlawful attempt to commit a violent injury on someone else—coupled with the present ability to do so. Cal Pen. §240. Once again looking to the California Jury instructions as an outline for elemental breakdown it shows us that there are four, (1) The defendant did an act with (a deadly weapon/a firearm/a semiautomatic firearm/a machine gun/an assault weapon/a .50 BMG rifle) that by its nature would directly and probably result in the application of force to a person; (2) The defendant did that act willfully; (3) When the defendant acted, (he/she) was aware of facts that would lead a reasonable person to realize that (his/ her) act by its nature would directly and probably result in the application of force to someone; AND, (4) When the defendant acted, (he/she) had the present ability to apply force (likely to produce great bodily injury/with a deadly weapon/with a firearm/with a semiautomatic firearm/with a machine gun/with an assault weapon/with a .50 BMG rifle) to a person. Thus, there are four elements that must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt to convict Cozart on assault with a firearm.
The defendant took property that was not his own. A person takes something when he or she gains possession of it and moves it some distance. Pen. Code §211. Here, Cozart took a Rolex watch and money from Ramsey The Great. Because Cozart gained possession of the items and moved them he would fulfill this element. This is not an element that would be much at issue given the facts because it is evident that it was completed. Unless facts came out that showed that Cozart did not take these items this element is set. Thus, Cozart did take property that was not his own.
The property was taken from another person’s possession and immediate presence. A person does not have to actually hold or touch something to possess it. It is enough if the person has control over it or the right to control it), either personally or through another person. Pen. Code §211. Here, because Ramsey was in the home it would be enough to show that he had possession of the items, it is not required that he actually had the items in his hands. In fact, one must not necessarily even own the items, this would be applicable with a store clerk who is robbed. In addition, because Ramsey was home and his items were taken this would count as being in his immediate presence since there was not a distance and he present at the time. Thus, the property was taken while in another person’s possession and immediate presence.
The property was taken against that person’s will. An act is done against a person’s will if that person does not consent to the act. In order to consent, a person must act freely and voluntarily and know the nature of the act Pen Code §211. Here, Ramsey did not consent to freely to the taking of his property, we can tell because he got hit in the face with the butt of a gun multiple times. This would suggest that he was not allowing the taking of his property. Because there was not consent given by Ramsey the property was taken against his will. Thus, Cozart did take the property against the owner’s will.
The defendant used force or fear to take the property or to prevent the person from resisting. Force, for purposes of robbery law, means physical force. And fear means fear of injury, to either; the victim’s self, a family member of the victim, the victim’s property, or, someone else present during the incident. Pen. Code §211. Here, because Cozart beat Ramsey while in the house it would show that there was a physical force. In addition, because Cozart had an AK-47 there would be a fear for one’s life because they could have easily been killed in that situation. These acts would encourage someone to give the property over to the one who was robbing them. Since there was a force and a fear both the acts were completed even though only one was needed. Thus, Cozart used force and fear to take the property.
When the defendant used force or fear to take the property, (he/she) intended to deprive the owner of it permanently/ [or] to remove it from the owner’s possession for so extended a period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property. Pen. Code §211. Here, because this is the intent element the Defendants mental state is what shall be examined. Because Cozart ran into the house with a gun and took Ramsey’s valuables, it is safe to infer that he had the mental state to deprive the owner. It is distinguishable then, when one takes another person’s phone in an emergency situation then hands it back. Because Ramsey was left without the property he was deprived of it. The facts are unclear where the property is as of now, but, going the one day without it is long enough to qualify for an extended period of time. Thus, Cozart intended to deprive the owner of their property for an extended period of time.
Moreover, there are two different degrees of robbery in California, first degree and second degree. It is so stated in Cal. Penal Code Ann. § 212.5 “That every robbery which is perpetrated in an inhabited dwelling house or trailer coach, as defined in the Vehicle Code, or the inhabited portion of any other building, is a robbery of the first degree.” Because Cozart allegedly committed the robbery in the Dwelling of Ramsey, he would qualify for first-degree robbery. If he was found guilty of all five elements. Thus, Cozart could qualify for first-degree robbery.
With regard to the assault with a deadly weapon, the first thing we look at is, whether the defendant did an act with a deadly weapon. If the weapon is an assault rifle or a machine gun it directly fulfills the element that the force would likely produce great bodily harm because of the weapons nature. Cal Pen. §245(a)1. Here, because Cozart had an AK-47 with him during the alleged robbery he had a machine gun which would show an application of force to a reasonable person. Also, because of the nature of this weapon, it is inferred that it would directly act as a force to a person. Thus, the first element is fulfilled.
The defendant did that act willfully. Willfully means the defendant acted with a purpose, it is not necessary that someone gets hurt or that they break the law. Cal Pen. §245(a)1. Here, because Cozart broke into and went in the home and pointed the gun at Ramsey it shows that he did act with a purpose. No one was shot during the course of the robbery, however, that does not matter because a person need not be harmed by gunshot to show that Cozart acted willfully. Thus, the second element would be completed.
When the defendant acted, he was aware of facts that would lead a reasonable person to realize that his act by its nature would directly and probably result in the application of force to someone. Cal Pen. §245(a)1. Here, Cozart would be aware that his actions would apply force to Ramsey because he pointed the gun at him and hit him with the gun causing injury. A reasonable person would be aware that this is showing force to another. In addition, Cozart was not alone, because there Ramsey was outnumbered in people and weapons it would be evident that Cozart would know his actions would make a reasonable person would result in an application of force. Thus, the third element of assault is established.
When the defendant acted, he had the present ability to apply force. This can also be shown by the defendant having a firearm, machine gun, or a semiautomatic firearm. Cal Pen. §245(a)1. Here, as said before because Cozart had a gun he would have present ability to apply the force. Thus, the fourth element is satisfied.
This defense is not relevant to the facts given in the article but if the defendant acted in self-defense or defense of another the jury would receive a fifth element which is, the defendant did not act in self-defense or in defense of someone else. If the defendant had acted in self-defense or defense of another, it would act as a defense to the assault charge. However, one can only use this defense if they reasonably believed that they or someone else was in danger of an unlawful touching or physical harm. Cal Pen. §245(a)1.
Therefore, because of the limited facts that are disclosed in the article, it would seem as if there would be a prima facie case against Cozart for first-degree robbery and assault with a firearm.
If you have questions about the criminal process here in San Diego, feel free to contact experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Vik Monder at 619-405-0063 or visit San Diego Criminal Lawyer