Trial of SLO firefighter accused of beating up man at bar begins Wednesday

ppemberton@thetribunenews.comSeptember 4, 2012 

An off-duty firefighter charged with assaulting a man at a San Luis Obispo bar last year had a history of violent behavior, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Jurors will hear about some of those alleged altercations during the trial of John Mason, which begins Wednesday.

Mason, a 35-year-old employee of the San Luis Obispo Fire Department, is charged with assault causing great bodily injury and battery with serious bodily injury. The alleged victim, Jory Brigham, 33, suffered a broken nose, broken jaw and broken cheekbones during a June 2011 altercation at Pappy McGregor’s Bar & Grill in San Luis Obispo.

The two men had an ongoing dispute related to allegations that Mason had an extramarital affair. The altercation occurred in a restroom after the two attended the wedding of a mutual friend.

Mason said he acted in self-defense; the prosecution said he committed a violent assault.

During a hearing on evidence Tuesday, Deputy District Attorney Kristy Imel said Mason has been involved in seven prior incidents of violent behavior — including some that involved “romantic-related jealousy” — which would suggest a pattern of behavior.

Defense attorney Chris Casciola noted that none of those alleged incidents resulted in criminal charges.

Superior Court Judge Michael Duffy said jurors can hear testimony from some of those incidents. He also ruled that the prosecution could show jurors photos of Brigham’s injuries.

Imel said the injuries show excessive force that counters Mason’s self-defense claim. Casciola said a doctor’s testimony would suffice — and that the photos would create sympathy for Brigham and prejudice the jury.

Jury selection for the trial will begin Wednesday afternoon.

Mason, with the San Luis Obispo Fire Department, remains assigned to administrative duties in his fire department position pending further proceedings in the case.

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