SLO firefighter and man he punched testify about who started bar fight

SLO firefighter says he punched man in self-defense, but alleged victim disputes claim in court

nwilson@thetribunenews.comSeptember 1, 2011 

A man who suffered multiple broken bones when he was allegedly punched in the face by an off-duty San Luis Obispo firefighter testified Thursday that he told his assailant repeatedly to let an ongoing dispute between them go.

But John Ryan Mason, who appeared in San Luis Obispo Superior Court for a preliminary hearing, told an investigator that the alleged victim, Jory Brigham, poked him in the chest about 30 times and pushed him before he threw punches in self-defense.

Mason, 34, has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of assault causing great bodily injury and battery with serious bodily injury against Brigham.

The altercation occurred about 11:30 p.m. June 4 at Pappy McGregor’s Bar & Grill at 1865 Monterey St. in San Luis Obispo, after the two men had attended a mutual friend’s wedding.

The hearing was to determine whether sufficient evidence has been presented to proceed to trial. Prosecutor Karen Gray finished presenting her evidence Thursday.

Defense attorney Chris Casciola — who, in remarks outside of court, called the fight an incident of “mutual combat” — plans to call a witness when the hearing continues next Thursday at 10 a.m. before Judge Michael Duffy.

Brigham took the stand to describe the events leading up to the incident — saying that he’d tried unsuccessfully earlier that day to resolve an ongoing feud between him and Mason over a comment Brigham had posted on Facebook.

Brigham said he wrote on his Facebook page a comment critical of those who walk out on their families — which he said included Mason, though he didn’t write Mason’s name.

Brigham told investigators he and Mason had known each other six years and their wives were friends. The two men had recently had strained relations over what was described in a police report as Mason’s purported infidelity.

Brigham said he walked into the bathroom that night and saw Mason. The run-in quickly turned into a heated conversation.

“He kept stressing I should mind my own business,” Brigham testified. “I kept saying ‘Now’s not the time’ and to drop it.”

The 32-year-old resident of Los Osos said he never touched Mason before he remembers waking up on the floor “out of it.”

He said his injuries included several broken facial bones. A surgery performed six days after the incident involved three plates implanted on the left side of his face.

Casciola said in an interview outside the courtroom after Thursday’s testimony that two witnesses who didn’t know the two men saw them grapple with each other during the altercation. But neither saw punches thrown.

Mason told a police investigator that he felt threatened after being poked about 30 times and pushed by Brigham.

Mason told police he struck Brigham with a punch in the face and then with his elbow three times while Brigham was on the ground — but he didn’t hit Brigham after he lost consciousness.

Casciola said his client is being charged because he was the winner of the fight.

“Brigham testified today that he never touched my client, but then multiple independent witnesses said they saw the two men wrestling,” Casciola said. “My client had the right to defend himself under the law.”

Mason has been assigned to administrative duties in his position with the fire department pending further proceedings in his case, according to city officials.

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