Jury acquits Bay Area DJ in casino slashing
A Douglas County jury deliberated six hours Friday before acquitting a 25-year-old Bay area man of attempted murder in connection with the stabbing of two casino security guards.
Justin Ready, who performs as disc jockey MC Fader, was released from Douglas County Jail about 10 p.m. Friday, an hour after the jury of six men and six women returned the verdict.
He had been held on $200,000 bail since he turned himself in last December after the stabbing incident Nov. 27 outside Altitude nightclub at Harrah’s Hotel Casino.
Ready started to cry and hugged his lawyer, Dirk Manoukian of Concord, Calif., as the six “not guilty” verdicts were read.
Several of the jurors embraced Ready and his father, Robert Ready of Texas, who attended the four-day trial before District Judge Michael Gibbons.
Forewoman Margie Leslie said the jurors couldn’t convict Ready based on the evidence.
He never denied stabbing the security guards, but claimed he acted in self-defense as they tried to evict him from the nightclub.
“We felt very bad for the defendant. We’re human and we have kids,” Leslie said.
“We didn’t like what he did, but decided it was justified with the evidence. He didn’t have any choice.”
Manoukian said he wasn’t surprised by the verdict in what he called a “high stakes” case.
Had he been convicted, Ready faced 40 years in prison.
“That’s not to say I expected that verdict,” Manoukian said. “Based on the evidence, there were some serious factual issues, a challenge to return a ballot of guilty. But there are no certainties when you are in trial.
“I am very pleased, but it’s a little tempered with the fact that Justin spent 10 months of his life in jail. We feel very fortunate the jury did the right thing.”
Manoukian said his young client was overcome with emotion as the verdicts were read.
“He is a young man. He had a good job and a promising music career. Now it is time for him to get on with his life,” Manoukian said.
Prosecutor Dina Salvucci said she was disappointed with the outcome.
“We appreciate the jury’s length of deliberation and accept their verdict,” she said. “I hope Mr. Ready gains some maturity and learns from this experience.”
In retrospect, Salvucci said she would not prosecute the case differently.
“The investigation was well done considering the location of the incident and Mr. Ready’s flight from the scene,” she said.
Ready’s father said he never doubted the outcome of the trial.
“He’s my son and I know when he’s telling the truth,” Robert Ready said.
Ready was been charged with two counts of attempted murder and four other felonies in connection with the Nov. 27 attack on two security guards.
Ready went to the night club with friends the Sunday after Thanksgiving and claimed he was invited on the stage by a fellow disc jockey.
He said he left the stage on his own, but one of the guards who was stabbed said he ordered Ready off the stage, then escorted him out of the night club.
Witnesses said the security guard, David Gontang, backed Ready up to a wall and attempted to pull the plastic admission band from Ready’s wrist.
Ready pulled his arm away from Gontang and a scuffle ensured as the guard tried to take Ready to the floor.
Gontang and security guard Ahmet Albayrak were each stabbed in the neck during the altercation with a pocket knife Ready had clipped to his pants.
Authorities had a videotape of part of the scuffle but it didn’t show the incident clearly.
Leslie said the jury viewed the tape repeatedly during deliberations.
“We watched that tape so many times and we all remembered the testimony,” she said.
“There were just too many blanks on both sides of the case and we felt we couldn’t convict him.”
Ready testified he was hustled into an darkened alcove by three security guards, placed in a chokehold and punched after he resisted the attempt to pull off the wristband.
He testified he was willing to leave the casino, but was attacked by the guards before he had a chance.
Ready said he pulled out the knife because he was afraid he would be killed.
“If Mr. Ready was in that much fear for his life, why didn’t he just leave?” asked Salvucci in closing arguments.
The prosecution claimed Ready set off the chain of events.
“Why Mr. Ready was being thrown out is irrelevant,” Salvucci told the jury. “Today, Mr. Ready looks great and that’s fine. That night, his hair was spiked up. He was MC Fader, a big man that weekend.”
Manoukian claimed Ready was battered by the security guards and responded with the appropriate self-defense.
“Justin that night did nothing but react to what was done to him,” Manoukian said.
He said Ready didn’t have time for form an intent to kill in the seconds from the time he was led from the nightclub until he was confronted by the security guards.
“Once your afraid you’re going to be seriously harmed or killed, you can use lethal force,” he told the jury.
Manoukian argued that Ready wouldn’t have fled the casino if he had the intent to kill the guards.
“He ran like a scared little kid to his home,” he said. “He ran because he’s young and afraid and this was the most gruesome thing that every happened in his life.”
Salvucci said the fact that Ready didn’t turn himself in for 10 days was not the action of an innocent man.
“None of his actions are consistent with innocence,” she said.
As Robert Ready waited for his son’s release Friday night, he said family and friends were planning a reunion.
“I am so emotional now,” he said. “I just want to get my son and see what he wants to do. I haven’t seen him for months and months.”
Jury acquits Bay area DJ in casino slashing
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