Jury finds Plainville man not guilty of aggravated battery

Jerry Mast (Submitted Photo)
Posted: Feb. 14, 2013 1:13 pm Updated: Mar. 7, 2013 1:23 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

A Plainville man accused of hitting a Quincy woman with a baseball bat during a brawl at a motorcycle club's clubhouse on Quincy's north side was found not guilty on Thursday morning.

Jerry Mast, 46, was facing a charge of aggravated battery as the result of a brawl at the Long Riders clubhouse near Fifth and Sycamore early on Jan. 1, 2012. He was alleged to have hit Ashley Williams in the face with a bat. A jury made up of eight men and four women needed less than 30 minutes to decide that Mast was not guilty of the charge.

Mast said the last year has been tough with the charge hanging over him.

"It sucked," he said. "What made it worse was knowing that I was innocent."

Both sides were able to present all of their witnesses on Wednesday's opening day of the trial. Williams, 27, testified that she originally didn't know who attacked her after she arrived at the clubhouse. She said that she came to the realization a few days later that it was Mast who hit her. Williams was intoxicated on the night she sustained her injuries. She had a blood alcohol content of 0.114.

Jessie Harrison, 28, also said that it was Mast who hit Williams in the face with a baseball bat. However, there were some inconsistencies in the testimony given by Williams and Harrison. Williams said that she and Harrison were joined by one other person on their travels that night. She also said that they went right from one Quincy bar to the clubhouse. Harrison testified that she and Williams were by themselves that night and that they went to another bar before going to the clubhouse.

During his closing argument, Assistant State's Attorney Josh Jones asked the jury to answer two questions as they deliberated.

"Did the defendant knowingly cause bodily harm to Ashley Williams?" Jones said. "Did the defendant use a deadly weapon other than a firearm?"

Mast's attorney, Riff Scholz, countered in his closing argument that the jury needed to answer only one question.

"The question is did (the prosecution) prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt?" Scholz said. "They can't shift the burden of proof to us."

During his testimony on Wednesday, Mast denied ever hitting Williams with a bat. He said that he didn't know who Williams was until after he was charged with hitting her. Mast testified that he was fighting with three men and was nearly run over by the truck that Williams arrived to the clubhouse in.

"This case hasn't been close to being proved beyond a reasonable doubt," Scholz said.

The jury agreed, coming back with a quick decision.

Mast, wearing a white oxford and khaki slacks, showed little emotion as the verdict was read. Williams was sitting in the front row of the gallery with her family. There was little reaction among that group as well.

Once the jury and others filed out of Judge William Mays' courtroom, Mast was able to exchange hugs and celebrate with friends and family members.

"It's a good day, baby," Mast told his crying wife as they shared a hug. "It's a good day."

Aggravated battery is a Class 3 felony. Had Mast been found guilty of the charge, he faced between two and five years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Mast had been free since posting 10 percent of a $10,000 bond.