Grand jury to decide if Deep Ellum assault suspect will face felony charge

Attorneys for the man recorded on video repeatedly punching a woman in Deep Ellum say their client should not face a felony charge.

A grand jury will decide whether Austin Shuffield is charged on a felony count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Shuffield is already charged with three misdemeanors for last month's parking lot confrontation with L’Daijohnique Lee.

His first court date was scheduled for Friday, but the district attorney was not ready to go forward.

Not ready to go forward because the cases against Shuffield have not been received by the district attorney from the Dallas Police Department.

That means either police are still finalizing reports connected to the incident, or the intake division in the DA's office has not completed its review of the cases.

Shuffield, who was initially charged with public intoxication, interfering with an emergency call, and misdemeanor assault, was arrested a second time when a charge of unlawful carry of a weapon was added for a gun that was seen in his hand on the video of the attack.

All of those charges are misdemeanors.

But the most severe charge - the one protestors demanded - was referred to a grand jury.

Felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, because Shuffield was seen on video with a gun in his hand during part of the confrontation.

“All this is waiting on the grand jury referral. so let’s make it very clear, Mr. Shuffield has not been charged with aggravated assault,” Scott Palmer, Shuffield’s attorney, said.

Shuffield's attorneys say their client committed no felony.

“He didn’t use the weapon in any way that we can see that would have given probable cause to the police officers that night to arrest him for that crime,” Palmer added. 

Former prosecutor Demarcus Ward, who is now in private practice and not involved in this case, says what he saw on the video meets the standard for the higher charge.

“If you show a weapon and you threaten someone and that person feels in fear of their life from that weapon, then that’s enough for aggravated assault,” Ward said.

Shuffield’s attorneys say the case is black and white, but not about black and white, disputing claims that their client's actions were racially motivated.

“He was trying to go home at four o’clock in the morning with a car going the wrong way on a one-way street in Deep Ellum, and once everybody understands the circumstances that led up to this and her actions and what she did, everybody will understand that things have been way overblown,” Palmer added.

The next court date for Shuffield on the misdemeanor charges he faces is set for May 2.

The public intoxication case will be in municipal court.

No word yet on when the grand jury will consider the felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon case and decide if Shuffield should stand trial on that charge or not.