Crime

Who was aggressor in bar fight involving SLO firefighter?

A man claiming he was seriously injured by an off-duty firefighter not only started the fight, a defense attorney argued Monday, but now he wants to cash in on his injuries.

But it’s the severity of those injuries — including 17 facial fractures — that proves the firefighter acted not out of self-defense, but rather out of rage and anger, the prosecution claimed.

As the assault and battery trial of John Ryan Mason wrapped up, attorneys presented the mostly male jury with two different stories about what happened in the restroom of a San Luis Obispo bar on June 4, 2011. The major difference in their stories was the identity of the alleged aggressor.

Both attorneys agree that Mason, 35, of San Luis Obispo and Jory Brigham, 33, of Los Osos had a verbal exchange at Pappy McGregor’s Bar & Grill after attending the wedding of a mutual friend. The prosecution argued that during the argument, Mason — still angry about a Facebook posting Brigham had made months earlier that alluded to his marital problems — sucker-punched Brigham, then elbowed him in the face multiple times, causing Brigham to lose consciousness.

“This isn’t self-defense,” Deputy District Attorney Kristy Imel argued. “This is rage.”

After the fight, she added, Mason went home and didn’t answer the phone or door when police tried to question him.“In the aftermath, he realized how badly he had hurt him,” she said.

Defense attorney Chris Casciola said Brigham was obsessed with Mason’s resolved marital problems. And on the night of the incident, he became drunk and aggressive, poking and shoving Mason, Casciola said.

“He started a fight; he lost a fight,” Casciola said.

After losing the fight, he argued to the jury, Brigham decided to seek revenge.

“He’s used the District Attorney’s Office as his tool, and he’s going to use the civil process as his tool,” Casciola said, saying Brigham would likely sue Mason.

A key point of the prosecution argument is the severity of Brigham’s injuries, which included broken cheek bones, a broken nose and a broken jaw that had to be wired shut for five weeks. Imel said anyone seeking to protect themselves can legally use reasonable force, but Mason exceeded reasonable force by repeatedly striking Brigham in the face with an elbow.

“He wanted to shut Jory’s mouth,” she said. “And he did. He had his mouth wired shut for several weeks.”

Casciola suggested Brigham’s worst injuries might have resulted during a mutual struggle as his face hit a sink or the ground. He implored jurors not to view Mason as the instigator because he walked away from a fight unharmed.

“You can’t simply look at the injuries and go, ‘Well, it must have been him — he won the fight,’ ” Casciola said.

Mason, a 15-year firefighter with the San Luis Obispo Fire Department, was charged with felony assault with great bodily injury and battery with serious bodily injury. The jury will deliberate today.

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