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Wyatt man is facing 30 years

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

BENTON - A Wyatt man is facing up to 30 years for assaulting a law enforcement officer.

According to the Scott County Prosecuting Attorney's office, Lonnie McCain, 41, was convicted by a Mississippi County jury on Friday of first degree assault of a law enforcement officer, driving while intoxicated and driving with a revoked license.

Sentencing by Circuit Judge David Dolan is set for Nov. 8. The maximum range of punishment on the felony assault charge is 10-30 years or life in prison.

"A life sentence in Missouri is calculated at 30 years," said Paul R. Boyd, Scott County prosecuting attorney. The other two charges are misdemeanors and can carry up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000 or both.

During the trial, the state produced evidence that Kyle Wilmont, a trooper with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, stopped a vehicle driven by McCain just west of Main Street on Malone Avenue for suspicion of an intoxicated driver on May 31.

While talking with McCain, the officer reportedly detected an odor of alcohol on McCain's breath, noted McCain's slurred speech and saw open containers of beer in the car along with a passenger who was either asleep or passed out.

McCain initially claimed to be Larry McCain and provided a false Social Security number. Wilmont directed McCain to perform a number of field sobriety tests that indicated McCain was indeed impaired. After McCain failed the field sobriety tests and the vehicle checked back to Lonnie McCain, Wilmont checked physical identifiers including a scar on his arm that matched Lonnie McCain and not Larry McCain of Colorado.

McCain finally admitted he was Lonnie McCain but when Wilmont told McCain to turn around so he could handcuff him, McCain reportedly placed his hands in his pants and claimed he had to urinate. The officer grabbed McCain's arm to arrest him and McCain began to strike the officer in the chest, neck and head with a closed fist to escape.

Wilmont attempted to knee strike McCain in the stomach to get him to stop and the struggle ended in the parking lot of a nearby used car dealership. Wilmont had McCain pinned against a car while McCain was still striking at the officer.

Lt. Dennis Irwin of the Sikeston Department of Public Safety, who was backing up Wilmont, approached the struggle and delivered a baton strike to McCain's right thigh. McCain's legs seemed to buckle for moment but he straightened up and started fighting again, taking Wilmont to the ground where he continued to punch Wilmont in the head, neck and chest.

Following a second thigh strike from Irwin, McCain gave up and allowed his hands to be put behind his back with the help of a finger lock from Wilmont.

Wilmont only suffered some stiffness and a sore jaw from about 10 punches delivered by McCain.

"But for the toughness of Kyle Wilmont, his training, his wearing of his bullet-

proof vest and the assistance provided by Lt. Irwin, McCain's aggressive assault against a law enforcement officer might have had a different outcome," said Boyd.

On the way to the Scott County Jail, McCain offered to be a confidential informant to get out of his charges. Wilmont denied the request, however, because of McCain's combative nature and the assault.

Upon arriving at the jail, McCain challenged Wilmont to a fight and proved he had to use the rest room by urinating on himself.

McCain refused to provide a breath sample to determine his level of intoxication and his driving status was revoked.

"The jurors were out only 25 minutes before returning their verdicts," said Boyd. "From a discussion with one of the jurors, they all felt that anyone who strikes an officer with a closed fist 10 times is attempting to cause serious physical injury regardless of the outcome of the attempt. Someone can be convicted of an attempt to commit a crime if the state shows by the evidence that the person took a substantial step toward the outcome of the intended crime regardless if they actually were able to commit it. An analogy would be swinging a bat at someone to hurt them but missing. Here, the jury had 10 closed-fist punches to consider as McCain's attempt to cause serious physical injury to Trooper Wilmont."

During closing arguments, Assistant Prosecutor Jason Denney pointed out to the jury that McCain had taken a substantial step in attempting to cause a law enforcement officer serious physical injury. Denney also asked the jury to send a message to those who might think like or act like McCain that assault of law enforcement officers will not be tolerated in Missouri.

Defense counsel for McCain argued that McCain should only have been convicted of third degree assault of a law enforcement officer because Wilmont was not injured.