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Guilty verdict returned in felonious assault case

It took less than half an hour for a jury of eight women and four men to decide the fate of an Ironton man charged with felonious assault.

Robert “Bobby” Harper, 37, was found guilty Tuesday after a trial that lasted about a day and a half. Common Pleas Judge D. Scott Bowling read the verdict.

Harper was arrested July 21 after he assaulted Jason Smith, an Ironton attorney and business owner, at his bar, the Fuzzy Duck.

“The evidence of the defendant’s guilt of the crime of felonious assault is not just proven beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s overwhelming,” Robert Anderson, assistant prosecuting attorney, told the jury during closing arguments. “This is not a head scratcher. This is a no-brainer.”

Anderson contended Harper did not meet the criteria for proving self-defense in the case because he essentially created the situation by going to the Fuzzy Duck knowing that Smith was present.

Gene Meadows, Harper’s attorney, disagreed.

“This is a case of self-defense, plain and simple,” Meadows said. “Bobby was not at fault in creating the situation.”

During Harper’s testimony, the man said he was in fear for his life when he saw that Smith had a gun hidden in his waistband. Harper said he saw Smith reaching for it when he struck the man in self-defense.

Smith testified Monday that he had placed his gun in his waistband because he knew Harper was coming to the bar that day to get some belongings from Smith’s estranged wife, who is also Harper’s girlfriend. Smith said he didn’t know what Harper would do and wanted to protect his wife and bar staff if need be.

Harper testified that Smith told him he wanted to “see a bullet between your eyes,” although no other witnesses to the incident testified to hearing that.

“Bobby had to act. He was in fear for his life,” Meadows told the jury. “(Smith) had a gun that was loaded. A shell was in the chamber. He was ready to do serious bodily injury to the man he hated. Bobby didn’t have the ability to retreat. He was in a bar with a man who had been drinking and had just threatened him.”

According to testimony during the trial, Smith was knocked unconscious after one punch from Harper, after which time Harper continued to punch Smith at least two or three more times.

Smith was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center-Ironton Campus to be treated for his injuries, which included cuts on his head and face and a swollen jaw.

Bowling ordered a pre-sentence investigation and set sentencing for today.