As discussed in more detail below, Mayhem is a crime where you maliciously or otherwise illegally mutilate, maim, or otherwise disfigure the purported victim.
Aggravated Mayhem is a more egregious version of that offense which entails you intentionally committing those heinous acts against him/her/them, resulting in the permanent maiming/disfigurement.
Torture involves you committing at least one of the foregoing acts, thereby intentionally inflicting severe physical pain and suffering on the accuser, but for the purpose of satisfying your own sadistic pleasures, for revenge, or to commit Extortion (California Penal Code section 518).
All three of these offenses entail significant prison time if you’re convicted – as long as eight years in a California penal institution excluding any sentencing enhancements (see below), or even life with possible parole.
Not surprisingly, all three of these offenses will automatically be charged as felonies.
Assault and Battery Crimes – Mayhem and Torture -- “Strikes”
By their very definition, Mayhem (Penal Code section 203), Aggravated Mayhem (Penal Code section 205), and Torture (Penal Code section 206) are all classified under California’s notorious, draconian, and archaic “Three-Strikes Law” as Strike Offenses (California Penal Code section 667(a)&(b); California Penal Code section 667.5(c) (“Violent Felonies”); California Penal Code section 1192.7(c) (“Serious Felonies”)).
The last thing you want on your criminal record is a Strike. If this is your First Strike, then you’ll have to serve at least 80% of your underlying prison term (see below), even with good-time credits. If this is your second, the underlying sentence will automatically be doubled. And a Third Strike will automatically get you 25-to-life (with possible parole).
California Statutes – Assault and Battery Crimes -- Mayhem and Torture
California Penal Code section 203 (Mayhem):
If you illegally (that is, without lawful justification) and nefariously deprive the accuser of part of his/her/their body, or disable, disfigure, or render that body part to where it is unusable, or if you slash or maim their tongue or facial feature(s), then you will be charged with this felony.
More specifically, according to the Judicial Council of California’s Criminal Jury Instructions (“CALCRIM”) number 801 (“Mayhem -- Pen. Code § 203”), to convict you of this crime, the Deputy District Attorney prosecuting your case must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury that:
- You severed the accuser’s body part; or
- You disabled/rendered useless said part for at least a substantial period; or
- You permanently maimed the accuser; or
- You cut/rendered useless his/her/their tongue/nose/ear/lip; or
- You disfigured their eye to such a degree that they could no longer see out of it, or you removed it altogether; and
- You acted deliberately with the intent to wound the accuser.
Keep in mind that even if the accuser’s disfigurement can be or is in fact repaired through surgery, you will still be prosecuted under this criminal code if the foregoing factors apply.
See People v. Hill (1994) 23 Cal.App.4th 1566, 1574-1575.
Interestingly, it is up to your jury to determine whether in fact the accuser suffered a “serious bodily injury”.
See CALCRIM number 801.
California Penal Code section 205 (Aggravated Mayhem):
The crime of Mayhem is escalated to this offense when you act without legal justification (such as self-defense), and in such a manner as to exhibit a callous disregard for the safety of the purported victim, and you deliberately and permanently maimed him/her/them, or you severed their organ or body part.
The prosecutor does not need to establish that you had intended to kill/murder the accuser.
California Penal Code section 206 (Torture):
If, when you acted, you intended to inflict brutal or severe agony on the accuser, and you did so to exact vengeance against him/her/them, to extort them, to persuade them, or for any sadistic/malicious reason, and you did in fact cause severe physical injury (see definition in Penal Code section 12022.7), then you’ll be charged and prosecuted for this felony.
To convict you, the Deputy DA assigned to your case doesn’t need to prove that the accuser actually did experience physical pain or suffering.
Assault and Battery Crimes -- Mayhem and Torture -- Convictions
California Penal Code section 203 (Mayhem):
Pursuant to Penal Code section 204, a conviction for “regular” Mayhem will get you a low, mid, or high prison term of 2, 4, or 8 yrs., respectively, depending on the circumstances.
California Penal Code section 205 (Aggravated Mayhem):
This crime falls into the category of what’s commonly referred to in the criminal law arena as a “Super Strike” – a conviction which results in an automatic life term (but with potential parole).
California Penal Code section 206 (Torture):
This entails the same Super-Strike punishment: life (although the statute does not state whether this is with or without potential early parole – a decision which would presumably be left up to your trial/sentencing judge to make).
See California Penal Code section 206.1.
Defenses to Assault and Battery Criminal Charges -- Mayhem and Torture
CALCRIM sets out a number of defenses to these types of prosecutions, including but not limited to the following:
- You didn’t sever the accuser’s body part;
- You didn’t disable or otherwise render useless the accuser’s body part;
- You did disable or otherwise render useless the body part, but it was only a temporary disablement;
- You didn’t slash or disable his/her/their tongue;
- You didn’t slice their nose, ear, or lip;
- You didn’t displace their eye or otherwise injure it to such an extent that they could no longer see out of that eye;
- You didn’t intentionally commit the act at issue (for example, it was an accident);
- You did act intentionally but not with the intent to harm the accuser;
- You only inflicted an insignificant or otherwise relatively benign injury on them;
- You did inflict severe physical harm on them but not for any sadistic reason (i.e., you didn’t commit the act for your own pleasure) or to extort them (mitigation to lesser charge) or to exact vengeance against them;
- The accuser consented to the act.
See CALCRIM number 801 (“Mayhem -- Pen. Code § 203”).
See also CALCRIM number 800 (“Aggravated Mayhem -- Pen. Code § 205”); and
CALCRIM number 810 (“Torture -- Pen. Code § 206”).
Examples of Assault and Battery Crimes – Mayhem and Torture
San Diego Man Receives Extremely Lenient Sentence for Biting Off Man’s Finger in Concert Fight
In early Aug. 2014, a brawl erupted at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Stadium during a Beyonce-Jay Z concert. The melee was preceded by San Diego resident Roberto Garnica (age twenty-five at the time) grabbing the buttocks of a female adult, Yolanda Saavedra.
(Had Garnica been arrested for this act, he would have been charged with Sexual Battery (California Penal Code section 243.4(e)(1); California Penal Code section 243.4(a). In fact, it remains unclear as to why he wasn’t charged therewith.)
Unfortunately for everyone involved, the woman’s husband, Patrick Saavedra, saw Garnica, who was apparently drunk at the time, committing the act. Patrick (also in his twenties) was understandably enraged and therefore punched Garnica, who responded by chomping off the end of one of his fingers with his teeth.
As a result, Garnica was arrested by Pasadena PD officers and charged with Mayhem (California Penal Code section 203). (Patrick had to undergo emergency surgency at a local hospital.)
Seven months later (Mar. ’15), the couple filed a personal injury suit against Garnica at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse (downtown Los Angeles).
The lawsuit also included negligence claims against the Rose Bowl and the security company who allegedly failed to protect the couple that fateful day.
The security company had also been sued because prior to the alleged/apparent sexual battery, the couple had notified security guards that Garnica and his friends were blocking their view while illegally standing in a handicapped zone. Although the guards kicked them out, Garnica and company returned, followed thereafter by Garnica grabbing her buttocks. (Thus, the couple blamed security guards for preventing Garnica’s return and sexual battery.)
It would take more than three years (until late June ’18), for the lawsuit to be settled (although the details would remain confidential).
In late February – one month before the lawsuit was filed – Garnica was sentenced (only six months after the assault). Incredibly, he received no prison time after taking a nolo contendere plea to Mayhem, a felony. Instead, he received forty days in the Los Angeles County Men’s Jail, thirty-six months of formal probation, only one month of volunteer work, and a year’s worth of weekly counseling sessions.
Apparently, because the brawl was considered by the judge to be mutual combat, and because Garnica did not necessarily intend to bite off Patrick’s finger, Garnica received great leniency. (The judge was also apparently unconvinced that Garnica had sexually battered the wife.) In fact, it is highly unusual for someone convicted of Mayhem to receive zero prison time.
Several Kidnappers Sentenced to Life without Possible Parole for Mutilating Pot Club Owner
In 2012, Ryan Kevorkian (age thirty-three) and two accomplices kidnapped the proprietor of a medical marijuana dispensary from a Newport Beach residence, as well as the romantic partner (an adult female) of the homeowner, who was not present at the time.
The kidnappers had received a bad tip that the proprietor had buried one million dollars in cash somewhere near Palm Springs, so they snatched him in an attempt to force him to reveal the location of the supposed treasure trove.
The men tortured the proprietor during the entire 120-minute drive out to Palm Springs, including by beating him with a metal pipe, zapping him with an electric cattle prod, and burning him with a sauntering iron. Far grislier, after they realized the proprietor had no idea what they were talking about, they severed his phallus, then threw him, the female, and the severed penis out of their vehicle as they sped away.
The woman somehow managed to break out of her restraints, ran to the nearest highway, and waived down a CHP patrolman who just happened to be driving by at the time. Miraculously, the proprietor lived, but he was permanently maimed (police were not able to locate his severed member).
It remains unclear how police caught up with the kidnappers, much less the man who had given them the bad tip, ringleader Hossein Nayeri (age unknown), but catch up with them they did the following year (2013).
It also remains unclear why it took so long for the culprits to be brought to justice as they languished for many years in LA County’s Twin Towers jail facility awaiting trial. All the men were charged with the following:
Aggravated Kidnapping for the Purpose of Committing Robbery (California Penal Code section 209(b));
Conspiracy to Commit Grand Theft (California Penal Code section 182 -- California’s general conspiracy statute). In addition, all of the foregoing offenses except Conspiracy were charged as Strike Offenses (Penal Code section 667(a)&(b); Penal Code section 667.5(c); Penal Code section 1192.7(c)).
In 2020, Nayeri, who had been in jail for seven years, received a life sentence with zero chance of early release (apparently after being convicted by a jury). Plus, the judge was particularly tough on Nayeri because three years after his arrest (in ’16), he somehow broke out of jail and was free for seven days before finally being recaptured.
The following year, in late May 2021, Kevorkian, who had been in jail for eight years, received a relatively lenient sentence of a dozen years in prison – presumably because he had ratted out Naveri in exchange for a lighter sentence, and because he had pled guilty to all charges. With the good-time credits he received while awaiting final adjudication, he nevertheless effectively received a sentence of more than two decades.
Finally, the third accomplice, Kyle Handley (age unknown), was also convicted of all charges by a jury and received the same sentence as Nayeri – life without potential parole.
Example of a Celebrity Case Involving Assault and Battery Crimes – Mayhem and Torture
In the immortal words of Rick James (born James A. Johnson, Junior), “Cocaine is a helluva drug.” Amen, brother. He should most definitely know what he’s talking about. Aside from perhaps Aerosmith’s frontman Steven Tyler, you would be hard pressed to find another singer in rock/pop music who spent more money on yeyo that James. His out-of-control addiction literally destroyed, and ultimately prematurely ended, what was otherwise an extremely talented life.
In late June ’91, James (who was 42 at the time) and his lover Tanya Hijazi (age unknown) essentially kidnapped a woman named Frances Alley (twenty-four) for almost a week. During that period, they tied her to a chair, forced her to freebase non-stop and engage in sexual activities with them, and occasionally burned her with a hot crack pipe. As a result, James and Hijazi were arrested in early Aug. on the following charges:
Aggravated Kidnapping – Other Sex Offenses (Penal Code section 209(b));
Mayhem; Aggravated Mayhem; and Torture;
“Gang Rape” (Forcible Rape Act in Concert) or Sexual Penetration in Concert (California Penal Code section 264.1);
Oral Copulation by Force, Fear, or Threats (California Penal Code section 287);
Assault with a Deadly Weapon (ADW) (California Penal Code section 245(a)(1));
False Imprisonment (California Penal Code section 236);
Oral Copulation in Concert (California Penal Code section 287(d));
Forcible Sexual Penetration (California Penal Code section 289); and Sexual Battery of a Restrained Victim (California Penal Code section 243.4(a)). If convicted of even the kidnapping charge alone, both defendants faced life in prison.
Incredibly (or perhaps not), only 14 months after their arrest, after being let out of jail on an understandably high bond, both James and Hijazi – who were once again high on crack – forced their way into the WeHo hotel room of hip-hop exec Mary Sauger (age unknown). For the next twenty-plus hours, they did pretty much the same things to her that they had done to the first victim.
The cases were combined into one trial, after which James was remarkably acquitted of the most serious charges, including kidnapping and torture. The judge gave him an almost unbelievably good deal (par for the course for celebrities in LA County) – five years, albeit at a maximum-security prison. Hijazi received an even lighter sentence – four years in prison.
James ultimately had to pay the second woman over a million dollars pursuant to a lawsuit she filed against him. (She also received three-quarters-of-a-million dollars from the hotel and its security company.) It remains unclear whether the first victim also sued him.
In late Aug. ’96, after having served only half of the five-year stretch, James was paroled for good behavior. He continued struggling with his demons thereafter until he passed away eight years later – his heart having been severely weakened by chronic, long-term cocaine abuse, at age 56.
The Los Angeles Defense Attorney Law Firm (LADALF)
Defending individuals, including juveniles, against Assault (California Penal Code section 240) and Battery (California Penal Code section 242) charges, including those entailing severe physical harm to the accuser, has been one of the primary focuses of LADALF’s managing attorney, Ninaz Saffari.
For the last seventeen years (as of the date of this writing, early January 2022), she has fought her way to an impeccable reputation as one of the top trial lawyers in town. Having now defended far more than two thousand cases and completed more than sixty trials, Ninaz has proven herself to be one of the top Assault and Battery defense attorneys – not only in LA County, but all of Southern California.