‘You made a very bad decision’ – judge sentences man for scuffle with Thomasville cops

Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 6:05 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - A federal judge on Friday sentenced a Thomasville man to more than eight years in prison for a scuffle involving two police officers last year.

Derrius Donae Griffin, 30, pleaded guilty in April to two counts of assaulting, resisting or impeding federal law enforcement officers. Both of the officers from the June 19, 2021, incident were assigned to the U.S. Marshals Service Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force.

Griffin apologized to U.S. District Judge Kristi DuBose and the officers involved in the arrest. He told the judge he was on drugs at the time.

“At the time, I wasn’t in my right mind. … I ain’t trying to hurt nobody,” he said.

DuBose sentenced him to eight years and four months in prison.

“You made a very bad decision and put the officers at risk of serious bodily injury, and you put yourself at risk of death,” she said.

Although Griffin pleaded guilty, his attorney disputed sentencing enhancements based on allegations that the defendant caused serious bodily injury. After hearing testimony and watching footage from one of the officer’s body camera, the judge agreed but ruled that a separate enhancement did apply for creating a risk of harm.

DuBose pointed to an image of cuts to Detective Jamarcus Robinson that he sustained during the altercation.

“Do you consider that a significant injury?” she asked.

Replied Robinson: “Not really.”

The officers testified that they were looking for Griffin because he was wanted on felony warrants, including for probation violations related to convictions on convictions for robbery and possession of burglar’s tools. He also has warrants on new charges of drug possession and attempting to elude.

Detective Andrew McKinley testified that Robinson called him to say Griffin had been spotted at a Subway restaurant. He said he left from home and that when he arrived, he saw the defendant in his car. The body cam footage shows the car moving in reverse, with McKinley standing in the open doorway moving with it and shouting at Griffin to put the car in park.

After moving in reverse, the car then went forward, up on to the sidewalk and crashed into an ice machine. Surveillance footage from a liquor store shows bottles shaking when the ice machine hit the wall. The car again went in reverse until it collided with an officer’s car. Both McKinley and Robinson struggled with Griffin, trying to pull the emergency brake and put the car into park.

McKinley testified that Griffin at one point grabbed his gun. He said he jerked it and struggled with the defendant to make sure he did not gain control of it.

Robinson said he feared his life was in danger.

“I really thought I was going to be driven into the side of that truck … I knew at that point it was probably deadly,” he testified.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Anderson argued for a sentencing within the advisory guideline range, which started at the eight-year, four-month prison term she imposed.

“We think it’s absolutely appropriate in this case,” he said.

But Assistant Federal Defender Latisha Colvin noted that her client was bleeding from the head, having been struck by gun during the scuffle. She said her client was planning to turn himself in but wanted to wait under after Father’s Day.

Colvin said Griffin was wrong and accepts responsibility. But she said he tried to drive away because he was startled. She noted that the video shows Griffin’s girlfriend – who tipped off law enforcement – was standing next to the defendant’s car and then moved away when the officers arrived.

“She knew what it was,” she said. “He didn’t know what it was. … He was no trying to kill these officers.”

The judge ruled that Griffin will serve the prison term at the same time as any sentence he might receive on related state charges.

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