A Suwanee man pleaded guilty in federal court today to assault charges in connection with a park ranger who was injured in a July 15, 2012, incident that prompted a change in state law governing prosecution of attacks on park rangers.
Charles Brown Jordan, 25, attacked U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ranger Ken Weiner on a Sunday afternoon while he was issuing an alcohol citation at Burton Mill Park off Gaines Ferry Road in Hall County.
In Gainesville’s federal court, Jordan admitted his guilt to the charge, although he said that "to be honest, I don’t really remember it," as he was under the influence of alcohol.
According to reports read in court, Jordan assaulted Weiner, holding the man’s right arm down and punching him two times in the face. He grabbed his right wrist to keep him from reaching his mace, causing a ligament injury in Weiner’s wrist that a year later continues to require medical care.
Weiner was in court Tuesday, seated next to the prosecutor during the hearing, his right wrist in a medical brace.
The corps advocated for changes in law in light of the incident, which were signed by Gov. Nathan Deal on May 6 and made obstruction of a corps ranger a misdemeanor and violence to the ranger a felony. Previously, because park rangers are not technically law enforcement officers, prosecutions didn’t fall under state law.
The law defines a park ranger as someone other than a police officer employed by the state, local governments or the federal gorverment who enforces park rules. Conviction of a state felony under this law could mean a sentence of at least one year and up to five years.
Based on the federal sentencing guidelines specific to his case, prosecutors requested Jordan be sentenced to between 15 and 21 months in prison, Assistant U.S. District Attorney William McKinnon Jr. said, although that is a nonbinding recommendation. The judge has sole discretion in sentencing.
The maximum sentence Jordan faces is eight years, and there is no mandatory minimum.
In court proceedings, McKinnon said Jordan could have faced a maximum sentence of 20 years if the case went to trial.
In addition to a possible prison sentence, Jordan has agreed to pay full restitution of Weiner’s medical bills per his plea agreement.
The date for his sentencing has not been scheduled.