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Man sentenced to probation in chain saw incident

December 12, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com
  • Ralph L. Mason
Submitted Photo

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A Berkeley County man accused of threatening to harm a West Virginia state trooper and his son with a chain saw at their home in October 2010 was sentenced Monday to five years of probation.

A jury in October found Ralph L. Mason, 49, of Gerrardstown, W.Va., guilty of single misdemeanor counts of brandishing a deadly weapon, assault on a government representative and obstructing. Mason was found not guilty on one count of assault.

On Monday, 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh suspended consecutive jail sentences for each conviction, which totaled 30 months, and agreed to allow Mason to be released from Eastern Regional Jail next Monday.

Mason has served more than 14 months in jail and upon release will be monitored with a GPS location-tracking device, according to probation terms outlined by Groh.

State Police Trooper Matthew Gillmore told authorities that on Oct. 1, 2010, Mason was outside his home with a chain saw making threats to him and also said he wanted Gillmore to "bring out his son so he could cut him," according to court documents.

In court Monday, Gillmore told Mason that he didn't have any animosity toward him and prays there is a change in Mason's life.

"The Lord can forgive us, but that doesn't negate responsibility," said Gillmore, who serves as chaplain for the State Police.  

When Berkeley County Sheriff's deputies arrived to investigate the incident last year, they found Mason yelling in a wooded area behind the trooper's Gerrardstown-area residence, police said. Gillmore said Monday that he never had any interaction with Mason before the incident. Gillmore said the one place where he could separate himself from his job and enjoy his family was taken from him by Mason's actions.

Berkeley County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gregory Jones asked Groh to have Mason remain in jail "at least through the holidays," citing his troubles with alcohol and testimony that appeared to indicate Mason didn't accept responsibility for the crimes.

"He knew he was making (threats) to a police officer," Jones said.

While allowing Mason to be placed on probation, Groh ordered him to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, have no alcohol at his residence and to stay away from Gillmore's residence, which is near Mason's mother's home.

Groh also agreed that Mason be ordered to stay within specific boundaries on his mother's property, which were outlined on a map discussed during Monday's sentencing hearing.

Groh didn't explain her reasoning for allowing Mason out of jail, but apparently was swayed by defense attorney Matthew Harvey, who said Mason had a drinking problem that got out of control, but had taken steps to turn his life around while in jail.

Harvey also noted that Mason had no prior criminal history other than a driving-related offense and that his incarceration of more than 430 days had cost the county more than $21,000 in jail fees.

"Anything more would be punitive," Harvey said. "He's been punished enough. He's learned his lesson."

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