NC State Fair Tragedy Ends In Assault Arrest

Vortex Ride Injuries Lead To Charges Of Assault With A Deadly Weapon

Five people were injured at the North Carolina State Fair this year when a midway ride restarted while people were exiting. The ride, called The Vortex, threw passengers as far as 20 to 30 feet in the air as it began spinning after releasing passengers from their safety harnesses.

Initial investigations into the cause of the malfunctioning ride point to tampering with the controls. Critical safety devices had been compromised because of the tampering, according to early reports.

Now, one man is facing felony charges of assault with a deadly weapon because he was the operator of the ride at the time of the serious accident. The man is an independent contractor, connected only with the one ride at this year's State Fair. Officials have said that there may be more arrests to come.

Is A Carnival Ride Considered A Deadly Weapon In North Carolina?

North Carolina broadly defines a deadly weapon as something that could kill another person. The first items that may come to mind are typical weapons - firearms, knives, explosives. You may be familiar with cars being considered deadly weapons as well; think of headlines that have classified a car accident as an assault with a deadly weapon.

But a carnival ride? Sure, if it fits the definition. Essentially anything could be considered a deadly weapon given the right circumstances; even something as simple as a pencil or as common as a closed fist can be considered deadly weapons.

What Is Assault?

The next question that follows is what is considered an assault under North Carolina law. There's no indication that the ride operator ever had physical contact with the riders, only that he started and stopped the machine and was tasked with ensuring that those who rode the Vortex followed the safety rules.

An assault in North Carolina may involve the assailant physically touching his or her victims or it may involve no touching and only the threat of imminent harm. An attempt to unlawfully touch another person that does not result in an actual touch may still be punished as an assault.

In addition, North Carolina considers a show of violence to be a criminal assault. This involves a threat of actual violence, regardless of whether the threatened violence actually occurs. For instance, pointing a gun at someone, with no intent to actually shoot the weapon, may be considered an assault by pointing a gun.

Assault With A Deadly Weapon

Now we're down to the actual crime charged: assault with a deadly weapon. North Carolina has defined this as follows ( N.C.G.S. § 14-32):

  • Any person who assaults another person with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and inflicts serious injury shall be punished as a Class C felon.
  • Any person who assaults another person with a deadly weapon and inflicts serious injury shall be punished as a Class E felon.
  • Any person who assaults another person with a deadly weapon with intent to kill shall be punished as a Class E felon.

A simple assault with a deadly weapon or an assault that results in serious injury is an A1 misdemeanor offense.

Reports of the charges facing the Vortex operator indicate that he is facing felony assault charges. He is not facing misdemeanor charges because he is accused of assault with a deadly weapon that did in fact result in serious bodily injury to at least five riders.

If convicted, the ride operator could be facing punishment for a Class E felony. The minimum sentence for a Class E felony for an individual with no prior criminal history is an intermediate or active sentence of at least 20-25 months in prison. In this instance, the ride operator is facing multiple counts of felony assault and could be facing a much longer prison sentence upon conviction.

Anytime you are tangled in the North Carolina criminal justice system, you should seek the advice of an experienced defense lawyer. The state must prove its case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. A defense lawyer can ensure that if there are problems in the case against you or an applicable defenses, that you are given an opportunity at the best possible outcome, whatever that may be, based on the facts of your case.

This informational article about felony assault in North Carolina has been provided by the criminal defense lawyers at Roberts Law Group, PLLC. If you are facing felony charges, our Raleigh law firm offers a free, same-day consultation. With offices also in Wilmington and Charlotte, our experienced assault defense attorneys provide aggressive, experienced representation across North Carolina.

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North Carolina vs. M.W.
Charge: Charge: Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon (4 Counts), First Degree Burglary, Conspiracy to Commit Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon
Facing: 12 - 17 years in prison
Result: Dismissed

An incarcerated defendant accused our client of participating in the robbery of a group of youth at a party. We were able to raise doubt as to the credibility of this individual. In the end, the prosecutor dismissed these charges, citing a lack of evidence.