Charlie Cole’s stab at revenge resulted in an aggravated assault conviction Tuesday at Warren County Courthouse when a jury found him guilty off attacking Jeff Morton with a beer bottle.
It marked the second time Cole and Morton squared off in a bar -- and in a courtroom. This time the roles were reversed with Morton the victim and Cole the defendant.
The history between the two dates back to Veterans Day 2010 when Morton used a knife to cut Cole on his face and arm inside Applebee’s. Jurors found Morton not guilty in that case, saying he acted in self-defense to halt a threat from a bigger Cole.
Prosecutor Matthew Colvard said that earlier confrontation is what prompted Cole to seek revenge during a chance encounter between the two at another local bar, Cowboy Up, on Sept. 8, 2017.
“Jeff Morton and his wife Lisa were enjoying a date night, shooting pool and drinking a beer peacefully,” said Colvard. “They were two people minding their own business when one gets hit with a beer bottle and the other gets shoved to the ground.”
After Cole’s initial beer bottle attack, his friend, Tony Lopez, joined in the assault. Lopez stomped Morton in the head while he was on the floor and also hit him with a chair.
Morton used a knife to cut Lopez in the leg while on the ground. Defense attorney Ryan J. Moore claimed there was no way Morton could have removed the knife from his pocket and opened it while on the ground getting stomped.
“Charlie Cole is not a troublemaker. He’s not an instigator,” said Moore. “If he wanted to get Jeff Morton, he had several opportunities to do it before 2017. He didn’t want any trouble. He was going up to him to say there were no hard feelings and that’s when he saw he had the knife out.”
The incident was captured by three surveillance cameras at Cowboy Up which show how the bar brawl unfolded. A camera by the main entrance shows Cole as he enters the bar. He makes a phone call and is joined by three other men near the main entrance.
The men are seen on video taking turns walking back to the area where Morton is hanging out with his wife. “They were scoping out the situation,” said Colvard.
After the Mortons stop shooting pool and take a seat, the video shows the men making their way back to that area of the bar. After a few minutes, Cole approaches Morton from the side and whacks him on the head. The blow sends Morton to the floor.
His wife jumps in to try to stop the assault, but Cole pushes her aside to get to Morton. Lopez then converges from another direction and can be seen stomping in the area of Morton’s head. He then grabs a chair and tries to hit Morton with one of the chair legs.
Colvard told jurors that Lopez has already pled guilty and served jail time for his role in the fight.
Morton took the stand and testified the knife was in his pocket at the time of the attack. “I didn’t know he was even in the room,” said Morton.
Defense attorney Moore had Morton open the knife on the stand and noted he used both hands. He continued his claim there was no way Morton could have gotten the knife out of his pocket while he was on the ground getting stomped.
In the end, the hard video evidence was too much for the defense to overcome and the jury returned a guilty verdict for aggravated assault in about an hour. Cole was found not guilty of a separate charge of simple assault for his contact with Lisa Morton.
A sentencing hearing has been set for April 8. Moore noted Cole has a clean criminal record and he’s hoping his client is granted a judicial diversion with no jail time.