Prosecutor dumped after declining firefighter assault case
April 4, 2012
By KAREN VELIE
The San Luis Obispo County prosecutor who decided not to prosecute firefighter Ryan Mason who is accused of savagely beating a man in June has been removed from the case.
Deputy District Attorney Karen Gray told the victim, Jory Brigham, that she didn’t think she could win the case, referring to the victim’s appearance as renegade and Mason’s as upstanding.
Gray was replaced a few weeks ago by Deputy District Attorney Kristy Imel, a decision made after CalCoastNews questioned Gray’s decision to drop the case.
Gray told Brighham she didn’t think she could win the case.
“Karen Gray said ‘I don’t take anything I don’t think I can win,’” Brigham’s attorney Mike Pick said. “She said it was just another bar fight. She didn’t even know (Jory) had been injured.”
In June, Mason followed Brigham into a bathroom at Pappy McGregor’s and allegedly beat him until he was unconscious because of an eight-month rift stemming from claims Brigham dissed the firefighter for having an affair with a policeman’s wife in a Facebook post.
“It is blowing my mind recently how lightly marriage is taken, and how it is almost socially acceptable to walk out on your family,” Brigham said on his Facebook page on January 27.
Doctors wired Brigham’s jaw shut and placed four metal plates into his face. He currently faces additional surgeries and has facial numbness that likely is permanent.
Gray elected not to pursue the case even though several members of local law enforcement said the case is a “slam dunk,” and San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Michael Duffy ruled in September that sufficient evidence existed to justify a trial.
Multiple witnesses to Mason’s alleged violent past either are afraid or reticent to testify against the firefighter, according to Brigham’s attorney, Mike Pick.
“She (Gray) can just subpoena people to talk,” Pick said.
CalCoastNews reporters spoke to almost a dozen witnesses who say they have watched Mason snap or lose his composure. Most wanted their names withheld either because of friendships with members of Mason’s family or fear of retaliation.
Mason’s history of alleged violent acts goes back to days at San Luis Obispo High School where he was suspended for an unusually violent high school fist fight were he bashed his opponent’s head into a metal locker.
Following the June incident at Pappy McGregor’s, police interviewed Travis Mello, who was involved in a previous altercation with Mason at Mo Tav in April over an affair Mason was having with the wife of Mello’s cousin.
According to the police report, Mason approached Mello, who was attending a birthday celebration, and asked him to discuss the affair with him. Mello said he had nothing to say to Mason and asked him to leave him alone.
Mason refused and after several attempts to get Mello to talk, Mason challenged Mello to a fight. Mello said he did not want to fight and reminded Mason that he was a firefighter and his behavior was unacceptable, the report says.
Mello told police Mason got in his face, and he shoved Mason away. Mello said they began shoving each other though no punches were traded. Bouncers interceded, ejecting both men from the bar, the police report says.
When asked by officers about the fight at the wedding, Mello asked what wedding the officer was referring to. Mello then went on to tell the officers of a 1997 Los Osos wedding where Mello claimed Mason hit another man over the head with a champagne glass.
According to several eyewitnesses, however, Mason grabbed a full bottle of champagne and bashed Al Beavers, the owner of Al’s Septic Pumping Service, on the head because he thought he was ogling his date at the wedding.
Though San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s deputies responded, Mason was never arrested for the alleged assault.
In Feb. 2011, Mason was playing poker with several neighbors when one joked to Mason that firefighters spend their days bringing cats down from trees. Sources say Mason became angry and attempted to crawl across the table at the card player. It allegedly took three men to restrain Mason, who has since been barred from the game.
Following Gray’s announcement that she planned to drop the case, several friends of Brigham’s including Jeremy Limpic, a local web designer, began organizing a signature gathering campaign to help pressure the District Attorney’s office into prosecuting Mason.
“With a case as extreme as this you think justice would take it course,” Limpic said. “We just want justice.”
The trial is currently set to begin on April 23.