Just as the felony assault trial against a San Luis Obispo city firefighter is about to begin, the County District Attorney’s Office caused a last-minute shakeup by replacing a veteran prosecutor assigned to the case.
John Ryan Mason is set to go to trial on April 23 for an alleged late-night assault on a former friend at a San Luis Obispo bar and grill in June 2011.
In recent months, friends and family of the alleged victim in the case, Los Osos resident Jory Brigham, began to question whether the trial would even happen; a string of prosecution-related delays set it back and communication between Brigham and the prosecutor assigned to the case went stale.
Brigham told New Times he was initially promised by prosecutors that the office would pursue full criminal charges against Mason, but that Deputy District Attorney Karen Gray had expressed her doubts about the case in his last communication with her.
At that point, Brigham said, Gray had yet to contact a number of witnesses he’d provided.
Fearing the DA would drop the case, a number of Brigham’s friends began a signature-gathering effort to compel the prosecutor otherwise.
District Attorney’s Office spokesman Jerret Gran, however, told New Times that Gray had simply been “reassigned” and was replaced by prosecutor Kristy Imel.
He said the office never expected to drop the case, and that Gray, who had participated in a number of preliminary hearings, had laid the groundwork by presenting evidence necessary to connect great bodily injury enhancements to Mason’s charges.
“It was never our intention to dismiss the case,” Gran said. “Sometimes these things happen when you have people working a number of cases at a time.”
Instead, calendar issues and Gray’s current workload impacted her ability to give the upcoming trial proper attention, he said, citing Gray’s involvement in the highly publicized upcoming trial of a San Luis Obispo man accused of murdering his mother.
Brigham, meanwhile, said he’s been frustrated with the pace of the proceedings, but he’s ready to move forward.
“The wheels of justice are slow, I guess, and I’m just starting to learn this,” Brigham said.
He’s expected to testify in the first day of the trial.
Mason’s attorney, Chris Casciola, couldn’t be reached for comment.