CLEARFIELD – Jovan Brown, 26, of DuBois was found guilty of beating a man at a party near the Penn State DuBois campus in October of 2013, after a bench trial before Judge Paul E. Cherry on Wednesday.
Brown was found guilty of aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, harassment and disorderly conduct. He was found not guilty of three counts of simple assault.
The victim testified he was at the party on Oct. 24, 2013 near the PSU DuBois campus, where he bumped into Brown and Justin Ritzie of Falls Creek. The victim said he had a previous incident with Brown but had reason to believe that everything was OK.
According to him, Ritzie was behind him while he was talking to friends during the early morning hours on Oct. 25, 2013. At some point, he said that Ritzie “blindsided” him with a punch to the right side of his face. This, he said, knocked him from the front porch and caused him to black out.
The victim then recalled lying in the front yard with someone punching him. The next thing, he recalled was waking up in the morning with blood coming from his eyes, ears and nose and his eyes swollen. The victim said he felt sore and his shoulder was “messed up.”
“I had no idea what happened,” he said. “I was beaten half to death.” The victim said he was taken to the hospital for medical treatment of his injuries.
First Assistant District Attorney Beau Grove presented photographs taken of the victim’s injuries the day after the incident. He also presented a series of photographs taken by police approximately one week after the incident when the victim filed a report.
Under cross examination by defense attorney, James Joseph Walsh of Pittsburgh, the victim admitted going to a friend’s birthday party first around 9 p.m., where he started consuming beer on Oct. 24, 2013. He left and went to another party, where the incident occurred, arriving around 10 p.m. The victim said he continued to drink beer while at the second party.
Walsh pointed out that the victim went to the hospital for medical treatment the day after the incident. However, he waited one week to report it to DuBois City police. When asked by Walsh, the victim admitted he told hospital staff that his injuries were from flipping his all-terrain vehicle.
In the affidavit of probable cause, the victim told police he didn’t report the assault incident immediately because he was afraid of what might happen to him if he did.
The victim’s friend who witnessed the beating at the party testified next for the commonwealth. While at the party with the victim, he said Brown showed up. The victim who had a prior incident with Brown asked if there were any problems to which Brown replied no.
“He [the victim] wanted to make sure there weren’t any problems,” said the witness. At around 2 a.m. Oct. 25, 2013, the witness said he left the party with friends and went to Sheetz; he was gone about 5-10 minutes. When he returned to the party, he found the victim lying face down in the yard with his pants and underwear around his ankles.
According to the witness, the victim looked “lifeless” with blood coming from his eyes, ears and nose. “I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “There was just nothing to him.” The witness decided he needed to get the victim away from the party.
The witness said when he and another person tried to pick up the victim Brown cracked him [the victim] in the right side of his head. He said they lowered the victim to the ground to get Brown away from him. When they tried to pick him up again, he said Brown cracked the victim with a closed fist two, different times.
In between strikes, the witness said that Brown commented, “That was my small boy, Ritzie, who hit you.” He said they eventually dragged the victim who was “all dead weight” to the car and took him to a friend’s house where someone was a medic.
The witness said he couldn’t even recognize his friend after the beating. He said he wanted the victim to go to the hospital for medical treatment. However, he said no one else wanted the victim to leave the house.
Ritzie testified on behalf of the defense about the incident at the party on Oct. 24, 2013. While at the party, he said the victim approached him “puffing his chest out” and trying to get into his personal business. Ritzie said he walked into the yard and the victim followed him.
At one point, Ritzie said he put his hand up, indicating he didn’t want any problems. He said he was there to have a good time and wanted the victim to “chill out.” He said when he put his hand up, the victim smacked it and he subsequently struck him in the face. When the victim went to tackle him, Ritzie said he hit him again.
After that he said he left the situation and went back into the house for about 30 – 45 minutes before leaving the party. He said Brown followed him into the house and never went back outside until they left.
Under cross examination, Ritzie said he wasn’t sure if the victim and his friend were at the party when he arrived with Brown. He said he was with Brown the entire time and Brown witnessed his altercation with the victim.
During his closing, Walsh argued that it was a case of “he said, he said.” He didn’t feel the commonwealth met its burden of proof, as its only testimony that his client was involved came from a witness who lied on the stand about going to police with the victim.
He pointed out that Ritzie testified that he was with Brown inside the house for 30-45 minutes. He also called attention to the fact that the victim told hospital staff that his injuries were from flipping an ATV.
“At the preliminary hearing, the commonwealth’s witness described the victim as looking like something out of a horror film,” said Welsh. “He didn’t call police or for an ambulance and leaves him in the care of another college student.”
Grove countered, saying that his witness didn’t lie about a “critical” part of the case. He said the court shouldn’t consider his entire testimony as a lie just for that. Also, Grove said the case involved college students who were at a drinking party and who didn’t make the best decisions.
Grove said the victim didn’t want any problems with Ritzie and Brown, who waited until he had a few drinks and “ambushed him” once they got him alone. He said anyone looking at the photographs of the victim’s injuries would know they weren’t from flipping an ATV.
“It’s someone who was punched repeatedly. They waited until they got their chance and jumped him,” he said. “You don’t disrespect Javon Brown. You don’t disrespect his friend, ‘that’s his small boy,’ Ritzie. It’s’ not reasonable to believe that the [victim and the witness] made this whole thing up.”