This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




State of Minnesota,



Juan Mendoza Zavala,


Filed June 23, 1998


Shumaker, Judge

Washington County District Court


John M. Stuart, Minnesota State Public Defender, Sharon E. Jacks, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)

Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Attorney General, Suite 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)

Thomas J. Foley, Washington County Attorney, Kari A. Lindstrom, Assistant County Attorney, 14900 61st Street N., P.O. Box 6, Stillwater, MN 55082-0006 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Amundson, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.



Appellant Juan Mendoza Zavala (Zavala) appeals his conviction of fourth-degree assault of Officer William Delaney (Delaney), arguing that the state failed to prove that he intentionally harmed the officer and that the state used prejudicial character evidence at trial. We affirm.


At the time of the offense, appellant lived in the segregation unit in the state correctional facility at Oak Park Heights and was on a special management plan because of his high security status. In accordance with the segregation unit policy and the special management plan, any time Zavala left his room he was required to wear full restraints and to be escorted by three corrections officers, with an additional corrections officer videotaping his movements.

The assaults at issue occurred while Zavala was being escorted from the exercise yard back to his room. As the corrections officers were removing Zavala's restraints, Zavala head-butted Officer Tad Tagawa (Tagawa). In attempting to restrain Zavala, Officer Delaney was injured. Delaney was later treated at a hospital for a wrist sprain and had limited use of his wrist for five to seven days. Zavala was convicted of two counts of assault in the fourth degree in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.2231, subd. 3 (1996).



Zavala asserts that the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to assault Delaney. When the sufficiency of the evidence supporting a verdict is challenged, the appellate court must carefully examine the record to determine whether the evidence was sufficient to permit the jurors to reach their verdict. State v. Steinbuch, 514 N.W.2d 793, 799 (Minn. 1994). The appellate court cannot retry the facts, but must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the verdict and assume the jury believed the witnesses whose testimony supported the conviction and disbelieved the witnesses to the contrary. State v. Merrill, 274 N.W.2d 99, 111 (Minn. 1978).

Minn. Stat. § 609.2231, subd. 3, refers specifically to correctional employees and provides:

Whoever commits either of the following acts against an employee of a correctional facility * * * while the employee is engaged in the performance of a duty imposed by law, policy or rule is guilty of a felony and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than two years or to payment of a fine of not more than $4,000, or both:

(1) assaults the employee and inflicts demonstrable bodily harm;

"Assault" is defined by statute as meaning

(1) An act done with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death * * *.

Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subd. 10 (1996).

Zavala argues on appeal that the state failed to establish by direct evidence that he intended to harm Delaney. However, intent may be inferred from the surrounding circumstances, such as a person's statements or conduct at the time of the criminal act. State v. Whisonant, 331 N.W.2d 766, 768 (Minn. 1983). It may be inferred that a person intends the natural consequences of his actions. State v. Lundstrom, 285 Minn. 130, 140, 171 N.W.2d 718, 724-25 (1969). "Intentionally" means that the actor either has a purpose to do the thing specified or believes that the act performed will cause that result. State v. Cole, 542 N.W.2d 43, 52 (Minn. 1996).

The trial testimony provided sufficient evidence for a jury to infer that Zavala intended to assault Delaney. Zavala's actions of head-butting and then charging Tagawa indicate that appellant was angry and intended to harm Tagawa. It may be inferred that Zalava intended the natural consequences of his actions when he continued to struggle while being restrained by the correctional officers. Zavala knew that the other officers would restrain him after he attacked Tawaga. Because it was in the process of restraining Zavala that Delaney was injured, it maybe inferred that Zavala intended to harm Delaney.


Next Zavala argues that the trial court committed reversible error by admitting prejudicial character evidence of his security status as a particularly dangerous inmate and by allowing testimony regarding Zavala's special management plan. In addition, Zavala argues that the prosecutor's closing argument "magnified his characterization as a particularly dangerous individual."

Generally, character evidence is inadmissible to show the person acted in conformity with a character trait on a particular occasion. Minn. R. Evid. 404(a); State v. Washington, 521 N.W.2d 35, 39 (Minn. 1994). However, a witness is entitled to provide to the jury a factual background of an incident in order to place the incident in the proper context, even if the factual background contains what otherwise might be inadmissible evidence of bad character. See State v. Waukazo, 374 N.W.2d 563, 565-66, (Minn. App. 1985), review denied (Minn. Nov. 1, 1985) (evidence admitted to illuminate relationship and to place incident with which defendant was charged in proper context).

In State v. Garcia, 374 N.W.2d 477, 480 (Minn. App. 1985), review denied (Minn. Nov. 1, 1985), the appellant argued that the victim's sister's testimony regarding the appellant's drinking and abusive behavior should have been excluded because it was an impermissible use of character evidence. We rejected this argument, holding that the "testimony provided a factual background for the jury's understanding, and was limited to a brief summary" of the appellant's and the victim's sister's relationship. Id.

In this case, like in Garcia, the challenged statements are in the nature of factual background and provide a context in which to place the assault for which appellant was on trial. In addition, the statements provide factual context for the videotape of the assault. The videotape illustrates the operation of the high-risk plan and shows Zalava's assault on one of the officers. Because Zavala appeared at trial in restraints (due to security reasons that were not revealed to the jury) and the videotape shows him in prison, it would have been impossible to hide the fact that Zavala was incarcerated. Like in Garcia, there was no evidence presented or arguments made that the defendant acted in conformity with any particular character trait. The record contains sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict.