A Suwanee man was sentenced in federal court Tuesday on assault charges for attacking a U.S. Army Corps of Engineer park ranger in a July 15, 2012, incident.
Charlie Brown Jordan, 26, was ordered to serve 18 months in prison after he pleaded guilty in July to punching Ranger Ken Weiner at Burton Mill Park off Gaines Ferry Road in Hall County.
The incident spurred a change in state law governing the prosecution of attacks on park rangers.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed a law on May 6 that 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 government 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.
U.S. District Judge Richard Story said Brown would have 13 months of the sentence left to serve after giving him credit for time already spent incarcerated.
A prison term can be reduced by 15 percent for good behavior, but cannot be paroled.
Jordan also was ordered to serve three years’ supervised release and to pay $14,000 restitution to the U.S. Department of Labor, which has paid Weiner’s medical expenses.
Jordan’s attorney, Kendal Silas, a court-appointed federal defender, asked the judge to consider his client’s troubled upbringing, including an absent mother for 10 years of his life.
Assistant U.S. District Attorney William McKinnon Jr. said Jordan had only admitted “tepid” responsibility, and a shoplifting charge during the pretrial period diminished Jordan’s standing to request a sentence below the guideline.
“No one takes more seriously than I do the assault on a law enforcement officer,” Story said, when handing down his sentence.
Corps representative Tim Rainey said he thought going through the federal court yielded a less satisfactory outcome than the state court system.
“There’s a higher sentencing guideline for the state charge, and the process might have possibly been quicker,” Rainey said.
Georgia law sets a minimum one year and maximum five for assaulting a ranger.
“There was a question whether we would even be able to get a felony conviction in federal court,” Weiner said, stemming from guidelines related to the extent of his injuries.
According to reports read in court, Jordan assaulted Weiner, holding the ranger’s right arm down and punching him two times in the face. Jordan grabbed Weiner’s right wrist to keep him from reaching his mace, causing a ligament injury that required surgery.
Weiner said his wrist still has not regained full motion, and likely never will.
“Right now I’m at about 85 percent, and probably won’t get much more than 95 percent,” he said.
He is rehabilitating with twice-weekly physical therapy, he said.
Rainey said he was disappointed Jordan had not accepted guilt in a more forthcoming way.
“He never fully came out and admitted full responsibility,” Rainey said.
Wearing a grey hoodie and a black jacket, Jordan made a brief statement in court, in which he apologized to the victims and his family, which now includes a newborn son.
“I would like to say that everyone in the court is a victim ... from my dumb mistake,” he said. “When I saw my son, it melted my heart. I would do anything in the world to support him.”
Rainey said he was disappointed the judge did not grant the agency’s request, voiced by McKinnon, that Jordan be banned from corps-managed parks during his supervised release.
But he stressed that dealing with behavior like Jordan’s is not the corps’ norm.
“I want to point out that it’s relatively rare in our agency that a ranger is assaulted,” he said, citing only one other incident in recent memory out of West Virginia. “The public should look at our parks and see our parks as a safe place to visit.”