Man who beat girlfriend, crashed into newspaper carrier pleads guilty in Rock Hill assault

Scars on his right arm will serve as a “permanent reminder” of the night Clinton Mason beat his Rock Hill girlfriend, snatched off her shirt and pants and then crashed her Honda into a Kia Rio that another woman used to deliver newspapers for more than a decade, his lawyer said.

On Dec. 26, 2013, prosecutors say an intoxicated Mason, 36, accused his girlfriend of infidelity, punched her in the face, pulled her hair and tried strangling her.

On Thursday, he pleaded guilty to assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and unlawful use of a vehicle, down from his original attempted murder and grand larceny charges. After asking a Circuit Court judge for only three years in prison, he received a nine-year sentence.

“I thought you learned something from the last time,” Circuit Court Judge Lee Alford told Mason in a York County courtroom.

The last time was in 2009 when Alford sentenced Mason to eight years in prison for assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and kidnapping, followed by five years’ probation.

At about 4 a.m. Dec. 26, police were dispatched to Scott’s Food Store at the intersection of Cherry Road and Heckle Boulevard after receiving a muffled 911 call from a woman. Dispatchers were unable to understand what she was saying, but managed to overhear a man yelling in the background, said Jenny Desch, the assistant York County solicitor who prosecuted Mason.

A store employee soon called police and reported witnessing a man, later identified as Mason, assault a woman outside, she said. By the time police arrived, Mason had fled in the victim’s 2000 Honda. The victim told police that she and Mason went out with a separate group of friends. After returning home, a drunken Mason accused her of cheating on him before he began hitting her in the face. He pulled her hair, Desch said, and tried strangling her.

The woman’s uncle, who was at the home, tried to stop him, but, fearing police intervention, Mason and the woman got into her car and drove off. As Mason drove onto Heckle Boulevard, the woman “jumped out of the car,” Desch said, and ran to Scott’s Food Store. Mason followed and resumed his assault on her. He tore at his girlfriend’s clothes, leaving her in only her underwear. He eventually took a shirt she wore, ran off and then returned moments later when he threw the shirt at her in the store.

He drove out of city limits on S.C. 322, where he collided with Donna Byard’s 2009 Kia Rio on Armstrong Ford Road as she was delivering newspapers.

After the accident, Byard told The Herald that the impact from the crash caved in her driver’s side door, deployed her airbags and ripped off one of the car’s front wheels. She was trapped in her car for several minutes until police and state troopers arrived and helped her out.

They also arrested Mason, charging him with attempted murder, grand larceny and kidnapping in connection with the assault on his girlfriend, and driving under the influence, driving without a license and improperly passing in connection with the crash with Byard. He pleaded guilty to the traffic charges last month, court records show, and was given credit for the months he’s spent in jail.

Desch asked Alford to sentence Mason to at least nine years after agreeing to dismiss the kidnapping charge. The victim did not appear in court Thursday, but Desch said the woman wanted to move on with her life and have no contact with Mason.

Mason and his girlfriend were in a relatively new relationship, said York County Public Defender Phil Smith, Mason’s attorney. Though he disputes what sparked the fight and the subsequent sequence of events, Mason does admit he was “horribly intoxicated” that night and was shocked once he saw store surveillance video of his assault on the victim.

But, he also was injured in the crash with Byard’s car, Smith said, and suffers from scars on an arm with limited mobility – “a permanent reminder of what he did do.”

“He has a problem with alcohol,” Smith said, adding that he also cares for his mother. “It scared people and scares him what could have happened.”

Mason apologized for his actions and requested treatment for his alcohol addiction.

“I know you have the last say-so,” Mason told Alford. “I just ask for mercy from you.”

Alford reiterated that Mason had been imprisoned five years ago for similar crimes.

“Apparently, that didn’t do you much good,” he said. “You weren’t out too long and you do the same thing again.”

After sentencing Mason to nine years in prison and terminating his probation on his prior assault and kidnapping convictions, Alford agreed to mandate alcohol and drug treatment for the convicted felon.

“I don’t think that’s your real problem,” Alford said. “I don’t think you have any respect for anybody else, especially for women.”