01/15/06 — McDonald found not guilty on assault charge

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McDonald found not guilty on assault charge

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on January 15, 2006 2:08 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive Town Manager Ray McDonald was found not guilty Friday of assault on a man at a polling place on Election Day. Judge Les Turner also dismissed a charge of communicating threats against McDonald.

The charges were filed by Jimmy Mayo, whose family has had a running dispute with Mount Olive officials over land-use restrictions.

Mayo claimed McDonald pushed him and threatened him during a confrontation at Southern Academy, where ballots were being cast in the town board election.

Mayo testified that McDonald came up to him, cursed him and told him, "Don't you ever follow me again. You just wait and see what happens next."

He said McDonald then pushed him, although Mayo admitted the push was "... mediocre. It weren't nothing."

McDonald testified that Mayo had previously followed him on several occasions since tensions developed between Mayo's family and the town over the placement of radio towers near the town's airport.

"It seems every time I turn around, he's there," McDonald said. "This week he's followed me a couple of times."

The family wants to erect more radio towers next to an existing one that serves a radio station the family owns. The existing tower was grandfathered in under town law but a request to put up a new one was denied.

On Election Day, the two men were among the crowd examining the vote tallies posted on a wall near the polling place door.

McDonald testified that he did not see Mayo when he arrived at the polling place. McDonald said he went to examine the results posted on the wall and did not realize that Mayo was standing behind him.

"I turned around, and he was there. I said next time you put out false information about me, you and I are going to fight it out in a court of law. I said I don't ever want to see you follow me again. He turned toward me and stepped on my toe and I said 'Get off my foot.' He had a blank stare on his face. I said it again and pushed him off my foot. I thought he was coming at me."

McDonald's lawyer, Carroll Turner, questioned the two men about their age and weight.

Mayo is 51.

McDonald is 68.

"Would it be fair to say you're bigger, taller and younger?" he asked Mayo.

"I think so, probably," Mayo said.

Mayo testified that he was not aware of having stepped on McDonald's foot on Election Day.

Assistant District Attorney Tom Perlinger said McDonald overreacted when he realized Mayo had stepped on his foot.

McDonald was being "jostled and turned to see Mr. Mayo, the thorn in his side for the past six months," Perlinger said.

It was not a justifiable act of self-defense for McDonald to push Mayo, he said.

"Stepping on a toe is not an assault," Perlinger said. He said McDonald should have simply pulled his foot back from beneath Mayo's.

Precinct Judge Jerry Mullis said election workers didn't notice the confrontation until they heard McDonald raise his voice.

"Someone was holding him (McDonald) back," Mullis testified. "His son said 'No Dad. It's not worth it.'"

Mullis said he and another election worker, Tyrone Kornegay, went over to the men and "told everybody to take it outside."

Kornegay said he escorted McDonald to his car, and asked a nearby policeman to prevent any further altercation.

He said Mayo followed them outside and "was mumbling something."

McDonald said he did not recall cursing Mayo, "but if I said that, I'm sorry."