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[June 13, 2013]
Charges against two certified in Mack case
Jun 13, 2013 (The Progress-Index - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- COLONIAL HEIGHTS -- The two men accused in the beating death of Russell "Rusty" Mack appeared in court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing.
General District Court Judge Thomas Vaughn determined after a two and a half hour preliminary hearing there was enough evidence to certify charges of first-degree murder, murder by mob and malicious wounding against Jonathan Brice Guy and a charge of murder by mob against Francis Blaha III to a grand jury.
Both men are 20 years old.
Guy and Blaha are two of four co-defendants charged in the Feb. 11 beating of Mack.
Mack ultimately perished of injuries sustained in the beating on Feb. 28. The other two individuals charged are Margaret Blair Dacey and Ashley Mack, the victim's estranged wife.
All of the suspects are from Colonial Heights. Dacey is charged with first-degree murder, murder by mob -- also known as lynching -- aggravated malicious wounding and malicious wounding by mob. Ashley Mack is facing charges of first-degree murder and murder by mob.
According to testimony in court Wednesday, the four co-defendants showed up at the victim's apartment asking him to stop posting things on Facebook about his estranged wife. Witnesses testified a physical confrontation between Guy -- the victim's cousin and his estranged wife's new boyfriend -- and the victim erupted. Ashley Mack, according to testimony, asked the two to stop fighting. When they did stop fighting, Rusty Mack yelled in her face and Ashley Mack yelled back at him before pushing him to the ground, before Dacey allegedly kicked him in the face, according to witness testimony.
John Rockecharlie, the attorney for Blaha, made a motion to strike after the commonwealth presented its evidence in the hearing. The evidence included several witnesses who saw a man, who they identified as Blaha in court, at the scene of the incident. Additionally, Blaha's vehicle was seized as evidence by police.
One witness testified that he saw all four co-defendants walking from one vehicle at the scene, shortly before verbal arguments escalated into a physical confrontation.
At the start of the hearing, Rockecharlie filed a motion to have Blaha's vehicle returned to his client, a motion granted by the court.
Rockecharlie argued that his client was leaving when Dacey delivered a kick to Rusty Mack, causing Mack to fall and hit his head, leading to injuries which, based on testimony by Dr. Kevin Whaley of with the Chief Medical Examiner's Office, caused Mack's death.
"I wish everyone there had followed Mr. [Ricky] Stutz's instructions," Rockecharlie said, referring to testimony by Rusty Mack's roommate for everyone to go home. The attorney added that the lives of everyone involved -- from his client and the co-defendants to their families and the witnesses -- had forever been changed.
Central to Rockecharlie's argument was Harrell vs. Commonwealth, a case heard in 1990. The attorney said that, according to the case law, not every incident of group violence constitutes a mob.
However, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Elizabeth Fields said that case stated that a crowd can become transformed without a verbal agreement due to emotionally charged circumstances and that such circumstances may focus individuals initially gathered for some other purpose to come together for an assault and battery.
Attorney Steven Novey also made a motion to strike for the charges against his client, Guy. Novey argued against the statement that the group must have come together assembled for the purpose of beating and killing the victim.
"Yet one of the members of the mob tried to stop them," Novey said. He added that this is one of the saddest cases of what would normally be a group of people fighting and suffering at most a black eye and an assault charge, but which turned out more tragic due to a freakish set of circumstances. He said, at most, Guy was guilty of trespassing for not leaving the property when asked.
"Where is the mob mentality?," Novey asked.
He also described the case as "overcharged." Fields said there was an agreement between the members of the mob through "concert of action." She argued there was probable cause because the four individuals went to Rusty Mack's house twice. The first time they left after being asked, but the second time they parked further away, came up together and waited for Mack to come down. Two witnesses testified that Mack was drunk at the time of the events. Fields said that even if he was, he had been at his own house and had every right to be drinking and to leave his house.
She said that witnesses also testified that while Guy stopped beating Mack, it was only after police sirens were heard, not just at Ashley Mack's insistence.
"While he's down and trying to get up, Blair [Dacey] kicks him," Fields said. "No one helped him." Vaughn said that there was a mob assembled whether or not there was a great deal of deliberation.
"It does give rise to probable cause," Vaughn said. He added that while there is probable cause, his finding is not one of guilt or innocence, and he certified the charges against both men to the grand jury.
- F.M. Wiggins may be reached at 732-3456, ext. 3254 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
___ (c)2013 The Progress-Index (Petersburg, Va.) Visit The Progress-Index (Petersburg, Va.) at www.progress-index.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
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