LOS ANGELES – A man who was found guilty of assaulting a Deputy U.S. Marshal by trying to run him over with a minivan has been sentenced to 96 months in federal prison.
Keith Leon Smith, 47, of Carson, was sentenced yesterday by United States District Judge R. Gary Klausner, who said the defendant was “really lucky on two grounds” – that he did not kill the Deputy Marshal and that he was not killed by law enforcement as he assaulted the Deputy Marshal.
Smith was found guilty by a federal jury on January 14 of one count of assaulting a federal officer with a deadly and dangerous weapon.
According to the evidence presented during a three-day trial in United States District Court, six Deputy U.S. Marshals went to a residence on East 220th Street in Carson, where they believed Smith was residing, on March 11, 2015. The Deputy Marshals were conducting an investigation with the goal of taking Smith into custody after a federal judge in 2013 had issued a bench warrant. Smith was wanted because he had violated the terms of his supervised release, after serving more than seven years in prison for being convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine.
While conducting surveillance, the Deputy Marshals observed Smith exit the residence, get into a minivan and leave the location. The Deputy Marshals, who were in several vehicles, followed Smith and executed a traffic stop, blocking his van. As the Deputy Marshals approached the minivan that Smith was driving and identified themselves as law enforcement officers, Smith reversed his vehicle toward some of the Marshals Service vehicles. Smith then suddenly accelerated his vehicle toward one of the Deputy Marshals, who was in front of the minivan. The Deputy Marshal, now in the way of the oncoming minivan, fired his weapon at the windshield and fell backward onto the ground.
Smith briefly stopped the vehicle as the shots hit the windshield, and then accelerated the minivan toward the Deputy Marshal, who was then lying on the ground. The Deputy Marshal was able to jump out of the way of the minivan and fire several shots at the vehicle. According to court documents, the Deputy Marshal “believes that he would be dead if he had not stumbled out of the way of defendant’s oncoming vehicle.”
“Mr. Smith took an inherently dangerous situation and made it much worse for everyone involved,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “There are serious consequences to dangerous and willful acts, such as intentionally driving a vehicle at a Deputy Marshal who is carrying out his lawful duties. His decision to put law enforcement officers in jeopardy has earned him this lengthy prison sentence.”
Smith then sped away as the Deputy Marshals gave chase. But, due in part to his dangerous driving, which included swerving into oncoming traffic, Smith was able to elude capture that day. However, deputies with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department located Smith’s minivan the next day and took him into custody. During a subsequent interview with Sheriff’s detectives, Smith stated that he did not stop for the Marshals because he did not “want to go back to prison.”
The investigation in the assault case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The government was represented at yesterday’s sentencing by Assistant United States Attorney Anil J. Antony of the General Crimes Section.