CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Mecklenburg County judge has declared a mistrial in the trial of three men charged with assaulting former NASCAR driver Mike Wallace and two of his family members.
Nathan Lucas, Paul Lucas and Randolph Mangum are charged in the assault after a concert in June that left Wallace, his daughter and son-in-law bruised and bleeding Tuesday.
Wallace had taken the stand and testified that he was knocked unconscious, lost a tooth and had eye damage, but he said he did not see who had hit him.
Judge Ronald Chapman stopped the trial before it could begin its second day after he learned that two potential witnesses had violated his order and were in the courtroom when another prosecution witness testified Tuesday.
Attorneys for all three defendants had argued that the violation required a mistrial ruling.
“There comes a point where the trial loses its sanctity,” said Joe Ledford, who represents Mangum.
George Laughrun, who represents Nathan Lucas, said the judge had little choice.
“If you don't grant the mistrial motion, it's tainted from here. It's tainted not only today, but it's tainted basically for the world to see,” Laughrun said.
Prosecutor William Biggers suggested that the judge could have other options, including barring the two witnesses from testifying.
Judge Chapman disagreed, saying the violations were serious and the potential damage to the defendants was too great to risk.
“I am hearby declaring a mistrial in this case based upon the allegations,” Chapman said.
Wallace appeared stunned at the ruling and later, outside the courthouse, said his family is still looking for answers.
“We are very confused and very disappointed that there's a mistrial. We don't understand it and all that we can hope is that we have an honest day in court,” he said.
(Nathan Lucas, Paul Lucas and Randolph Magnum)
The first witness for the prosecution was a distant relative of Wallace’s who said she was at the concert with other friends when she saw a disturbance and went to help a man who was hurt.
“This was an old guy laying on the ground, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, he's hurt!’” Melton said.
She testified that she did not know it was Wallace until later.
Wallace took the stand Tuesday morning and said that he was leaving the concert with family members and friends when he made a comment to someone, and then looked over and saw a man standing in a pickup truck yelling.
“The next thing I knew, I was hurt severely bad, and then I don't remember anything until I woke up,” Wallace said.
When he did come to, he said, all he knew was the pain.
“I was hurting, my front tooth was knocked out. There was blood all over my face,” Wallace said.
Defense attorneys went after Wallace’s version of events, suggesting that a mix of alcohol and prescription drugs may have clouded his memory, and that he may have instigated the fight.
They showed a brief cellphone video that appeared to show Wallace in the middle of a fight.
“So that was you involved in that whole fracas, right?” attorney Ken Swain asked.
“It looks as though I was the guy on the bottom of that,” Wallace answered.
Channel 9 asked defense attorneys for a copy of that cellphone video, but they said they can’t begin their case and formally introduce it.
Mangum, the Lucases and their attorneys all left the courthouse without commenting.
Late Wednesday, prosecutors said they plan to retry the case, but have not set a date.
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