Court Holds 18 U.S.C. § 111(b) Does Not Require Specific Intent to Injure

Fleeing United States Marshals in his mobile meth lab, William Milliron decided to aid his escape by lighting bottles containing the chemicals he was using and launching them at his pursuers. After 35 miles, however, Milliron's chase ended when he crashed his vehicle into a building.

Pursuant to a written plea agreement with the Government, Milliron pleaded guilty to four counts of a seven-count indictment, including a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 111(a)(1) and (b) for using a deadly or dangerous weapon to forcibly assault, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate, and interfere with federal officers performing their official duties. However, Milliron subsequently moved the district court to allow him to withdraw his plea citing his counsel's failure to correctly explain that, in order to convict him of violating 18 U.S.C. § 111(b), the Government had to prove he specifically intended to cause injury during the chase. The district court disagreed and denied Milliron's motion. At sentencing, the district court varied upward from the recommended Guidelines sentence and imposed a sentence of 110-months imprisonment. Milliron appealed. 

At the outset, Milliron faced a significant hurdle in his appeal: an appellate waiver. In its opinion, the Court held that the appellate waiver in Milliron's plea agreement was valid and limited his appeal to considering the validity of the plea agreement.

The Court first turned its attention to Milliron's claim that his counsel misread 18 U.S.C. § 111(a)(1) and (b). Noting that the Sixth Circuit had already held that subsection (a) only required general intent, the Court held, for the first time, subsection (b) likewise required general intent. Thus, the Government did not have to prove Milliron specifically intended to injure his pursuers, and his plea agreement was valid.

Turning to Milliron's sentence, the Court likewise found no error. Specifically, the Court rejected his argument that the district court erred in imposing a three-level enhancement for possessing and threatening to use a "dangerous weapon" pursuant to USSG § 2A2.4(b)(1)(B). Noting the "functional approach" taken by the Court to considering what constitutes a dangerous weapon, it concluded that the makeshift Molotov cocktails lobbed at the pursuing marshals by Milliron were "dangerous weapons" as defined under the Guidelines. It therefore affirmed his sentence.

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