7 Years in Jail for Teen; Prosecutors Say “Door Checking” Assault Inspired by GTA

An 18-year-old Maryland man is heading to jail for seven years for a crime which prosecutors allege was inspired by Grand Theft Auto.

Hometown Annapolis reports that Nathan Wade Hartley, Jr. "door checked" two young brothers last August. Hartley, who had three friends in his car at the time, drove at the boys (ages 11 and 15), striking one by opening the driver’s door of his Honda Civic and hitting the other with the front end of his car. The boys were critically injured in the assault.

Deputy State’s Attorney John Mark McDonald commented on the case:

This was particularly disturbing… It just makes me worry about what he will do in the future… The only reason these kids are alive is luck or grace or whatever you want to call it.

Maryland radio station WTOP-FM has more:

A teenager is headed to prison for what prosecutors say was a senseless crime inspired by a video game.


In the popular game "Grand Theft Auto," players drive virtual cars and intentionally hit pedestrians by smacking them with open car doors. It’s called "door checking," and prosecutors say 18-year-old Nathan Hartley decided to try it with a real car last summer.

GP: Is "door checking" possible in GTA? I’m having trouble locating any videos depicting it…

UPDATE: PS3 Attitude spoke to prosecutor McDonald, who denied linking the crime to GTA:

The suggestion came through the Defendant. I have never seen Grand Theft Auto, and had never heard of ‘door-checking’ until this case. It was a defense he set forth in attempting to waive his case back to the juvenile court. The State did not introduce the game into the prosecution of this case. It added nothing. My comments on the game were to rebut his reasoning for doing what he did.

I did not suggest that the game was to blame for his conduct, and would not. The blame lies entirely with Nathan Hartley. I stated as much in court. As I indicated, I have never even seen the game and I was not passing any judgment on the game. I was simply arguing why I felt his justification was not valid.

GamePolitics was in touch with Hometown Annapolis reporter Scott Daugherty, whose original article seemed to suggest that prosecutor McDonald make the GTA link to the crime. Here’s what Daugherty told us:

It’s been awhile since I’ve played GTA and the prosecutor has never seen the game. According to the prosecutor, Hartley’s defense attorney referenced GTA in court as a defense… I guess the old, "it’s not my fault, the video games made me do it," defense.


While I don’t recall being able to specifically door check someone in GTA Vice City (the last one played), I do remember clipping pedestrians as I drove down the sidewalk. If you hit one they would fly off to the side.
That is the best I can offer.

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  1. Necromancerxd says:

    You get next to someone as your driving they must be going the same direction as you and you open the door and hit them with it. My friend does it all the time. He’s a cop though and he’s usually doing it to fleeing dope dealers it’s kinda funny. They learn don’t run when the cops come after you.

  2. DeusPayne says:

    Has the ‘video games made me do it’ defense EVER worked? Hell, claiming twinkies made you do it has been more successful. You’d think the lawyers would get the clue that it’s NOT a valid defense.

  3. Doom90885 says:

    Once again the human race proves itself in its ignorance and stupidity. Acoountability, repsonsibility for you own actions? Who the hell needs them when we have excuses and scapegoats to take the rap for our bad decisions?

  4. hellfire7885 says:

    In GTA 3, Vice City, and SanAndreas, no, as one would phase trhough the door.

    In GTA4 yes, but it is EXTREMELY hard to do as Rockstar took the laws of aerodynamics into account, meaning passing wing as yo udrive will blow your door shut.

  5. Shahab says:

    This is like most of the other video game violence stuff, played up by the media. The reporter obviously thought that spin would get the most views and so he played it up.


    Horrible journalism.

  6. Krono says:

    From the sound of it, "door checking" is opening your car door as you drive past someone in order to hit them with it.


    And they already fried the idiot at trial. That’s what the 7 year minimum sentence comes from.



  7. Father Time says:

    Door checking isn’t easy in the game. The only way you can get Niko to open the car door is when you tell him to get in or out. If you get in and floor it he won’t shut the door but it sometimes closes by itself.


    Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it’s over they have the same positions they started in.

  8. nightwng2000 says:

    It’s possible that the "door checking" is actually a side effect.  I don’t have the game or game system right now.  While driving, head toward a pedestrian, and just as you get the pedestrian, jump out of the car while it’s still moving.  Can the door strike the pedestrian and knock them down?

    But here’s another question:

    What game did this guy get HIS idea from?


    In addition, I doubt that "door checking" is, in fact, a new idea.  I’m certain I’ve seen it on a number of older action, especially crime drama, TV shows long ago, like the ’70s and ’80s.


    NW2K Software


    Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as http://groups.myspace.com/pfenl

  9. Cheater87 says:

    I don’t know about GTA but I know you can door check in Saints Row. But the door will close after a few sharp turns.

  10. hellfire7885 says:

    While Door checking is possible in GTA4, it is EXTREMELY difficult to pull off. Not only do you have ot pretty muhc jump off the line when you get in a vehicle, but Rockstar took into account that wind can blow doors closed. IT wasn’t even possible in San Andreas as people somehow phased through doors.

  11. Shahab says:

    But the prosecutor said nothing about GTA in the trial or ever. It was brought up by the defense supposedly and was the angle the "journalist" decided to play up. This really is a case of much ado about nothing, and shitty journalism.

  12. CyberSkull says:

    I’m fairly sure there is no door-checking segment in GTA4. Certain actually. Niko always closes the door of the car he is in, the only time it opens is either he is getting out or the car is very damaged. So the GTA4 assertion was pretty much pulled out of the prosecution’s ass as scaremongering. The guy deserves the jail time no question though.

  13. lumi says:

    I agree that there are definitive flaws in the prosecution’s case, but I don’t think either side cares, or that it hurts the prosecution’s case.  The kid did it; no one seems to be disputing that. 

    If the prosecutor came out and said "your defense is BS, no such thing exists in that game, it’s just the popular scapegoat d’jour", then I suppose he might have received a stiffer sentence.

    The party that loses out in all this is, of course, the video game industry.  Unfortunately, no one actually involved in this case gives a damn.

  14. Lou says:

    Problem is that the prosecutor pretty much screwed himself over this case. A decent lawyer could do some research and find out that there is no way you can do Door Checking on GTS therefore jeopardizing his whole case cause he presented "false information" and posed it as a fact in his case. This is not the first time a prosecutor has used false information.


    The case is different but both have the same situation. They both screwed up their case for not checking their facts before taking their case to court.

    There is no question that this imbecile deserves those 7 years in jail but this case has a serious crack and it could be overturned wich pisses me off. Once again an incompetent prosecutor messes up a serious case by looking for a scapegoat instead of concentrating on the criminal act.

  15. State says:

    Of course there’s door checking in GTA4, it’s in there with all the rape, pornographic sex and drug taking Niko can do.

  16. ZippyDSMlee says:

    Age dose not eqaute to maturity. When the ulz demands soemthign to be done no matter the logic ivoled you can wager youer soul/life that its imatruirty leading the way…


    I am a criminal because I purchase media,I am a criminal because I use media, I am a criminal because I chose to own media..We shall remain criminals until Corporate stay’s outside our bedrooms..


  17. Defenestrator says:

    How does the point of inspiration excuse the fact that this douchebag CRITICALLY INJURED TWO PEOPLE?

    It doesn’t matter if he got it from a video game, a TV show (Burn Notice did this a few weeks ago), a movie, a book, or the voices in his sick brain.  He still CRITICALLY INJURED TWO PEOPLE.  That’s all that matters in a guilty or not guilty court of justice.

    Seven years seems about right.

  18. nighstalker160 says:

    Did the prosecutor make this argument in court? In front of a jury?

    If he did so, I see a major appealable issue here. As there is NO door checking in GTA there is ZERO probative value to this information and its prejudicial effect is VERY high.

    This information should NOT have been admitted into evidence if it was.

    Not to mention the prosecutor may have violated Ethics Rules by introducing material evidence that was false/not true. He may have violated his duty to act diligently and if he KNEW there was no door checking then he knowingly made a false statement of material fact to the court which is a GIANT problem.

    This guy NEEDS to appeal this conviction.

  19. Zerodash says:

    If only he had played "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego" then he would surely have grown up to be a geographer.

    Also, which button do I press in GTA4 to "door check"?  Either I didn’t read the manual, or someone is looking for the wrong scapegoat…

  20. Austin_Lewis says:

    What a load.  You can only ‘door check’ in gta if you get into the car and start it quickly, before you close the door, or if you smash your door open.  It’s probably nothing like this moron.

  21. sirdarkat says:

    Ok I hate GTA not a fan of it and frankly I was a teenager back when it was in 2D mode and I thought it would have been funny on a couple of occasions to open the door while driving to smack someone (especially motorcycles driving up the center lane).  In fact Im pretty sure the place I saw such a thing occur was in a movie and not in some video game.  But I guess movies aren’t the new comic books that are corrupting our youth are they.

    (As a sidenote I never did do such a thing because not being mentally retarded I understood that most of my friends would have been placed in the hospital if I had done such a thing)

  22. sheppy says:

    I think you missed a couple…

    -Real reason for violence ignored despite discovering some sort of grudge between the teens and/or mental problems. (edit:rtfa kicked in big time.  No association with the victims, BUT… some sort of mental problems MUST exist)
    -Eagle Forum comments on how gamers shouldn’t be allowed near cars anymore, citing Kaz’s tirade about Gran Turismo leading to reckless driving in British Teens.

    Wall of Text Simulation- Insert coin to continue.

  23. Magic says:

    Oh joy, it’s the daily teen violence news. Get your checklists out, boys:

    – Idiot teenager acting violently.
    – Teenager played a certain game.
    – The game is blamed as the cause or main factor in the violence.
    – The game is mentioned incorrectly by name ("GTA", not GTA4).
    – The game is cited as featuring the same act of violence and that it is used against innocent people (Where was the door checking level in GTA4 anyway?).

    Did I miss anything?

  24. eston says:

    The funny thing about this story is that I’ve been wanting the ability to door check people since GTA3 came out, yet to my knowledge the game has not implemented it in any way. I’m really not sure where they got their info here, but I’m still sitting here wanting to be able to do that in the next GTA

Comments are closed.