HUDSON – The family of Jared C. Britton, 23, shed tears of joy Friday night when Dunn County Circuit Court Judge Rod Smeltzer read the verdict of Britton being not guilty of murder and aggravated battery in the 2010 death of Bradley Simon.
Meantime, the family and friends of Simon sat in stunned silence while listening to the St. Croix County jury’s verdict.
Defense attorney Earl Gray said he was very pleased with the not guilty verdict. “This was a difficult case because of the emotion involved,” he said, referring to the accident that ultimately resulted in the death of Simon, 23. “I’m guessing if I was on the jury, I would find the alleged battery didn’t cause the death of (Simon).”
Gary said conflicting testimony from a prosecution’s witness, a Log Jam Tavern bouncer raised doubts in the mind of the jury.
He added that since Simon had been drinking and took a bike without brakes, he contributed to the fatal accident.
Shortly before 2 a.m. on Sept. 18, Simon left the tavern in downtown Menomonie following an altercation with Britton that involved a group of Stout hockey players and others. After taking a bike from behind a house in the 100 block of Main Street, a criminal complaint said Simon was allegedly pushed by either Britton or Jedediah R. McGlasson, 21, a hockey recruit from Alaska, causing Simon to veer into a wall and fall off the bicycle.
Simon sustained a traumatic brain injury and died five days later at a hospital in Eau Claire. According to testimony during the trial, Simon’s blood alcohol was 0.225, nearly three times the legal standard of 0.08.
“This is a clear example of why college students should limit their drinking,” Gray said. About his client, he noted that Britton was an honor student at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, in addition to playing on the hockey team for three years before he was suspended following the accident.
“He went to St. Cloud (Minn.) to continue his education. I think he hopes to return to Stout.”
Waiting for the verdict, Brad Simon’s father, Phil, said: “There’s no winner here. … You’re going to have two families, extended families, that have a great loss — that’s no matter how the outcome comes out. We appreciate what the district attorney’s office, the people of Menomonie, the school – we’re very appreciative of all our friends and family who have traveled here with us.”
Because of pending civil litigation by the Simon family, the Brittons declined a request for an interview.
The trial of McGlasson on charges of party to the crimes of felony murder and aggravated battery is set to begin Aug. 9.
Dunn County District Attorney James Peterson in closing arguments said: “Nobody’s going to dispute that Brad Simon lost his life as a result of the bicycle he was riding colliding with a wall and falling, suffering a traumatic brain injury.”
Peterson likened the group of hockey players, visitors and friends in the Log Jam to a pack of wolves, “threatening, trying to intimidate and they certainly were scaring Brad Simon. … His friends were concerned for his safety.”
He didn’t deny that Simon made poor choices on the night of Sept. 18. “That’s what alcohol does to people. … It reduces their judgment, makes them do things they wouldn’t otherwise do.”
Peterson made it a point of reminding the jury about the 100 shots of liquor Britton purchased for the group. “They’re getting riled up,” he said. “Some of them are saying, ‘Let’s fight!’ They had Brad surrounded.”
With members of the group seen lingering on the sidewalk in front of the Log Jam, Simon and Joe Scanlin planned to exit at the back of the bar. Peterson noted that rather than wanting to fight, video footage showed Simon running across the Log Jam’s backyard patio at 1:58 a.m. to get away.
The D.A. described Log Jam bouncer J.D. Kuehn as the only witness to the incident. He urged the jury to take into consideration the lies told by Britton from the beginning: “The first big lie was in the bathroom, telling his teammate, Eric Scovill that there’s someone that wants to fight him. … Did Brad Simon going out on the patio look like someone who wanted to fight him?”
Both Britton and McGlasson, Peterson said, “were like two wolves working together. … If there’s a mistake as to who did the shove, they’re still guilty as a party to a crime.”
Matter of credibility
Gray questioned bouncer Kuehn’s credibility as an eyewitness to the events leading to the crash. Gray pointed out that there were no marks on Simon’s face.
He added that although there was no evidence of hair, skin or blood on the wall, Kuehn repeatedly testified seeing Simon hit the wall face first following the collision.
“Mr. Kuehn says he was out in front … and he saw a group of guys going towards the north on Broadway,” Gray told the jury. “Then he gets to the corner, and he claims that he saw Brad Simon 200 feet away on an unlit, dark street with one light on the light pole – and he recognizes him coming up the street. He had only seen [him] once before in the bar. How can he say that? It’s impossible.”
Gray told the jury: “These are college kids, not gangsters. They were out having a good time. Unfortunately, a tragic, tragic accident happened.”
"You can’t put the blame on Mr. Britton.”