Saturday, February 23, 2002

Brawl leads to assault conviction

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — Warren County jurors rejected a felonious assault charge Friday and convicted John Webb of the lesser offense of aggravated assault in a Sept. 6 brawl over a property line dispute.

        “That's what we offered to plead to, so that's a victory,” said Mr. Webb's attorney John Quinn, who had hoped for acquittal on claims that Mr. Webb acted in self-defense when he punched 71-year-old Jerry Little.

        The verdict places some blame on Mr. Little because the aggravated assault charge suggests that the victim provoked the attack while Mr. Webb was cutting his grass.

        Mr. Webb, a 56-year-old retired General Motors employee, faces up to a year in prison when he is sentenced next month. However, Mr. Quinn said his client likely will be placed on probation because he does not have a criminal record.

        Mr. Little declined comment as he left the courthouse following jury deliberations that lasted 4 1/2 hours.

        Assistant Prosecutor James Beaton said the Littles were satisfied, even though they had pushed for a trial after rejecting a plea agreement earlier in the week that called for a conviction on the lesser charge.

        “It should have never happened — me being charged like that. If he hadn't have hit me, I wouldn't have hit him,” Mr. Webb said Friday.

        Mr. Little, who received six stitches and a large contusion to his head, claimed that Mr. Webb called him names, then beat him when he stopped at the foot of his Utica Road driveway in Turtlecreek Township to collect his mail.

        Mr. Webb, who was drinking beer and cutting his 5-acre lot on a riding mower at the time, said he fought back when Mr. Little accused him of being on his property and blowing grass clippings into his yard, challenged him to a fight, then struck him in the side of the face, breaking his glasses.

        Mr. Webb still faces trial on a charge of driving his lawnmower drunk, which deputies lodged as part of the assault investigation, His lawyer said he'll fight the case on constitutional grounds.

        Mr. Webb said he's changing his ways.

        “If there's anything I'm going to do, I'm trading in my riding mower for a walk-behind, and I'm putting a cup holder on it,” he said.


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