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Laptops, Food Stamps, and K2--Oh, My!

09-Jan-2015

This story has hot mess written all over it. 

An Oklahoma City man has been jailed on a complaint of domestic assault and battery with a dangerous weapon after he allegedly threw a laptop computer at his father's head.

The reason for his wrath?

His daddy refused to let him sell food stamps to buy drugs.

The father of 24-year-old Matthew Aaron Armstrong told police that his son wanted to sell the food stamps for money to buy K2, or synthetic marijuana. Armstrong's father allegedly told him that he would no longer tolerate his drug use, and that if the young man continued to use drugs, he would have to move out of the house.The younger man allegedly became so angry that he threw a laptop at his father, striking him in the head. 

Police were summoned to the scene on a domestic violence call early Wednesday afternoon. Armstrong was booked into the Oklahoma County Jail that evening on a complaint of domestic assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. As of this writing, he remains in custody, awaiting a judge's determination of bond.

Although in this story, the defendant is accused of committing only one crime--domestic assault and battery--the intent to commit two other crimes is alleged in this story. Let us take a look at all three criminal offenses:

  • Domestic Assault and Battery with a Dangerous Weapon
  • Welfare Fraud
  • Possession of a Controlled Substance

Domestic assault and battery with a dangerous weapon is described in 21 O.S. § 644 (D-1):

Any person who, with intent to do bodily harm and without justifiable or excusable cause, commits any assault, battery, or assault and battery upon a current or former spouse, a present spouse of a former spouse, a parent, a foster parent, a child, a person otherwise related by blood or marriage, a person with whom the defendant is in a dating relationship as defined by Section 60.1 of Title 22 of the Oklahoma Statutes, an individual with whom the defendant has a child, a person who formerly lived in the same household as the defendant, or a person living in the same household as the defendant with any sharp or dangerous weapon, upon conviction, is guilty of domestic assault or domestic assault and battery with a dangerous weapon which shall be a felony and punishable by imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections not exceeding ten (10) years, or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one (1) year. The provisions of Section 51.1 of this title shall apply to any second or subsequent conviction for a violation of this paragraph.

Whereas domestic assault and battery, in general, is a misdemeanor on the first offense, the use of a "dangerous weapon" elevates the offense to felony status. The penalty is likewise increased from a maximum of one year in jail to a maximum of 10 years in prison. While most people would identify a gun or knife as a dangerous weapon, in truth, any object which can be used to inflict injury during a physical altercation may be considered a dangerous weapon--including a laptop.

The second criminal offense mentioned in the brief reports of the story is welfare fraud. Welfare fraud can involve many different types of abuse of public assistance:

  • Selling or buying food stamps
  • Redeeming food stamps for unauthorized purchases
  • Buying items with food stamps and then selling them for cash
  • Selling formula or other items obtained through WIC benefits
  • Food stamp trafficking, or purchasing SNAP cards for pennies on the dollar and then redeeming them for the full value
  • Giving false or misleading information on benefits applications

The Oklahoma statute governing food stamp fraud is found in 56 O.S. §, 644. This statute delineates a number of illegal activities and assesses penalties depending on the value of the fraud. It may be charged as either a misdemeanor, punishable by a year in county jail, or a felony, punishable by 2 years in prison.

Finally, we come to possession of synthetic drugs, such as synthetic marijuana known as K2 or Spice. A new law took effect in Oklahoma in November which specified a significant number of chemical groups and compounds used to manufacture synthetic drugs, including synthetic cannabinoids. There are now more than 150 versions of K2 specified in state law as Schedule I drugs, and possession of these controlled substances is a felony on the first offense, punishable by 5 years to life in prison.



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