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Friday, April 1, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Shelley Guilty In Assault Case -- Former UW Star `Devastated' By Verdict

A jury didn't buy Jason Shelley's claim of self-defense and convicted him of a felony assault charge for breaking the jaw of a University of Washington student during a pickup basketball game.

The conviction yesterday in the court of Superior Court Judge Ricardo Martinez came exactly one year after Shelley fractured the jaw of Mario Gonzalez in three places during a game at the UW intramural facility.

The jury of eight women and four men took six hours over two days to reach the verdict.

Robert Wilson, one of Shelley's lawyers, said an appeal is likely. He said one of the grounds is the judge's ruling that the defense couldn't argue that Gonzalez took an implied risk by playing in the intense game.

"Some experts have called the defense of assumption of risk the most important defense available to an athlete charged in a case like this," Wilson said. "We were not allowed that defense. We were not allowed to present evidence in support of it, and we weren't allowed to argue it to the jury."

Shelley, 19, declined comment after the verdict was returned. Wilson said his client was "devastated."

The only options before the jury were acquittal or conviction of second-degree assault. Judge Martinez denied a defense motion Wednesday to include an option for fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor.

Wilson said it was "unfortunate" the case was filed by the prosecutor's office as a felony.

Jury foreman Bill Barry, 32, an engineer, said jurors voted for conviction after determining "this was not self-defense."

"We realize that was probably not the intended amount of injury," said Barry, referring to the fractured jaw. "But the more we looked at it, the more we felt this was not an accidental event. If it's not accidental, it's intentional. If it's intentional and you intend to produce harm, it's called an assault."

The jury took three votes before convicting. The jury was split 10-2 before reaching unanimity.

Barry said the jury wasn't inclined to be more forgiving because the incident occurred on a basketball court. Barry said jurors remembered the admonition of deputy prosecutor Lisa Marchese that "a basketball court is not a sanctuary for any kind of activity."

During closing arguments Wednesday, Marchese repeatedly called the blow that injured Gonzalez a "a sucker-punch."

Another juror, who requested that his name not be used, said Shelley hurt himself with comments from the witness stand such as "I decided to retaliate."

Testimony showed that Gonzalez, who was smaller and not as skilled as Shelley, repeatedly had fouled the ex-Husky football player and that two fouls had drawn blood.

Shelley is due in Seattle Municipal Court Tuesday to stand trial on a misdemeanor obstruction-of-justice charge stemming from an incident in the University District last October.

Shelley and two other former UW athletes, Doug Barnes, 20, and Prentis Perkins, 21, were convicted of a misdemeanor sexual-assault charge in Eugene in mid-March. Prosecutors in Eugene say they will re-try the three on a burglary charge that resulted in a hung jury in the same case.

Shelley will be sentenced on yesterday's conviction May 20. The standard sentence for first-time convictions of second-degree assault is three to nine months in the county jail.

Shelley, considered one of the most promising wide receivers in UW history, was removed from the team last October. He is under contract with the Atlanta Braves and is considering playing in the Canadian Football League.

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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