Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jan 8, 2013

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Former star of hit TV series “Heroes” Tawny Cypress is creating drama on screen, and off. According to news reports the 36-year-old actress is being sued by her former husband Bill Charles for assault.

The lawsuit claims that on his way into a restaurant, Charles was hit over the head with a hard object and knocked unconscious, suffering a fractured nose and a concussion. The accused attacker is not Cypress herself but her current boyfriend, Tom Dillon; Charles claims that Cypress came along with Dillon and that the ex-couple’s 12-year-old son was also present.

As many post-divorce lawsuits go, one party’s story is a bold-faced lie according to the other. According to the suit, not only was Dillion not present, but Charles was in the process of attacking their son, Dexter, when a bystander interjected. The claim that Charles attacked his own son put him in jail for six days after the alleged incident, which happened in June.

Charles denies all of this and stands by his story as the victim. He is suing for damages of more than $1 million, according to reports, where as Cypress and Dillon insist that security cameras around the restaurant will show that their story is the true version.

Assault Charges

Although states vary, there are typically two categories of assault charges: simple and aggravated. The main difference between the two is the severity of injury. A person commits a simple assault if they recklessly or knowingly cause harm to another, or put another in fear of such harm; while one is guilty of aggravated assault if they recklessly or knowingly cause serious bodily harm to another. A serious injury is considered to have taken place if it creates a substantial risk of death, permanent disfigurement, or loss or impairment of a bodily member or organ.

In most courts, a simple assault is considered a misdemeanor, while an aggravated assault is a felony charge with generally much longer jail sentences and steeper fines and damages. A simple assault may become a felony charge if the crime is committed against a person of a protected class, in other words–a hate crime or an attack on an individual in the line of duty.

In the case of Cypress and her ex-husband, Charles is accusing Dillon of assault, but with attempt to murder. This becomes an attempted murder charge, which can hold much greater consequences than your basic assault charge. Charles is asking for $1 million in damages; this type of compensation will generally be awarded to a Plaintiff to pay extensive medical damages and make up for emotional distress and pain and suffering. Reports on the lawsuit do not indicate whether Cypress or Dillon face possible jail time, but in cases of aggravated assault, this is a possible outcome.

To learn more about penalties and consequences of assault charges, read Assault: Penalties and Sentencing