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State v. Nyagwoka

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

April 3, 2017

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Cyrus Nyakundi Nyagwoka, Appellant.

         Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CR-14-36166

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Linda K. Jenny, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Arthur R. Martinez, Matthew T. Martin, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Considered and decided by Kirk, Presiding Judge; Schellhas, Judge; and Bratvold, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         Misdemeanor domestic assault is not a lesser-included offense of second-degree assault.

          OPINION

          SCHELLHAS, Judge

         Appellant argues that the district court erred by sua sponte considering and convicting him of misdemeanor domestic assault as a lesser-included offense of second-degree assault. We reverse.

         FACTS

         Appellant Cyrus Nyagwoka was in a relationship with J.O. from 2010 until late 2014. At the end of their relationship, J.O. began seeing G.N., an Arizona resident. Nyagwoka and J.O. remained in contact with each other, and Nyagwoka still possessed a key to J.O.'s apartment. In December 2014, G.N. was visiting J.O. in her apartment when Nyagwoka entered. Nyagwoka learned of J.O.'s new relationship with G.N. and became upset, demanding to know more about the relationship. When G.N. stated that he would be late for a flight, Nyagwoka insisted on taking G.N. to the airport, which he did. Later that evening, Nyagwoka contacted J.O. to ask her whether she had driven to the airport to retrieve G.N. after he had dropped him off. The question led J.O. to suspect that Nyagwoka was jealous of her new relationship and was watching her.

         The next day, J.O. was in her apartment talking on the phone with a friend when Nyagwoka returned. Nyagwoka believed J.O. was talking to G.N. and demanded that J.O. give him the phone. J.O. threw the phone into a closet to keep her friend on the line, and Nyagwoka pushed J.O. onto the floor and kicked and stepped on her. J.O.'s friend heard some of the activity over the phone and called 911.

         After the assault, Nyagwoka escorted J.O. to his vehicle and drove northbound. J.O.'s friend eventually was able to call her, and J.O. explained that she was in Nyagwoka's vehicle. J.O.'s friend again called 911 to update the police on J.O.'s status. Based on the 911 calls, a police officer was dispatched to J.O.'s apartment on two occasions. On the first visit, the officer did not find anyone at J.O.'s apartment. On the second, the officer encountered J.O. stumbling outside her apartment. J.O. told the officer that Nyagwoka assaulted her. Specifically, J.O. claimed that Nyagwoka punched her at least 20 times and threatened her with a knife. J.O. was taken to the hospital, and an examination revealed bruises, scrapes, and tenderness to her neck, ribs, finger, wrist, and upper arm.

         Respondent State of Minnesota charged Nyagwoka with second-degree assault in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.222, subd. 1 (2014) (assault with a dangerous weapon) and terroristic threats in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.713, subd. 1 (2014).[1] At a bench trial, J.O. testified that Nyagwoka threatened her with a ten-inch knife during the assault and told her "this is your last day." After trial, the district court found that Nyagwoka had injured J.O. but concluded that reasonable doubt existed as to whether he threatened her with a knife and uttered "this is your last day." The district court then sua sponte considered the charge of misdemeanor domestic assault under Minn. Stat. ยง 609.2242, subd. 1 (2014), as a lesser-included offense of second-degree assault and found Nyagwoka guilty of misdemeanor domestic ...


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