My name is Eddie Jones. I was there the night of the incident. I did not see the physical altercation, but I did see the verbal altercation earlier in the evening. I was also present at the trial and provided witness testimony.
Matt Coakley is an amateur MMA fighter with a 14-6 record. His background is wrestling, with high school and limited collegiate experience.
I have known Matt for 14 years. We wrestled together in high school and were training partners. The night of the incident, I was planning to watch the UFC: Silva vs Sonnen 2 fight, and Matt and I made plans to meet at a bar, Brickhouse. Matt was there with some friends from the gym and I went with one of my friends. I will attempt to provide an unbiased account of events.
My friend and I grabbed a booth directly in front of a drop down screen next to where Matt was sitting with a group of maybe 10 friends from the gym. When Matt saw me, both he and his girlfriend came over and sat with us. Matt was wearing a plaid flat billed hat. I offered to buy Matt a beer, but he told me that after losing his wallet with $1000 cash in it while drunk, as well as benefits to MMA training, he had decided to give up drinking and had been sober for 5 months. He was drinking water and ginger ales. Matt's girlfriend was sitting next to me. Matt and my other friend were sitting across from us. Behind me was a large drop down projector screen that Matt and my other friend were watching the fights on.
About an hour into the card, the bar was getting crowded. People were standing and beginning to gather in front of the screens. Some people who were standing up had moved in front of our booth, blocking Matt's view of the screen. My back was to these people. Matt called out "Hey, down in front!" They didn't acknowledge him. The bar was loud, so he called out again. "Hey, down in front. Excuse me," waving his arms to get their attention and cupping his hands around his mouth. My back was to them, but by Matt's reaction, I guess they moved. That is when another guy stepped in front of us. My back was to this, but according to Matt, when this guy’s friends stepped out of the way, he defiantly stepped back in the way. Matt yelled out to him, "Hey buddy! Hey, you're in the way," to which there was no response. Matt yelled out again, “Hey, move out of the way!” No response. Getting annoyed, Matt called out "Hey, get the **** out of the way!" This got the guy's attention.
He turned around and responded with something along the lines of, "Who the **** do you think you're talking to?" (He had tattoos on his arms and hands, with a set of brass knuckles tattooed on his fist and across his left and right knuckles were tattooed “T-A-K-E” and “T-H-A-T.”)
“I’m talking to you. I just asked those people to move and they did, then you stepped right in the way.”
“Well where do you want me to go?” was the response.
“I don’t know, go find a seat somewhere.”
“Why don’t you get up and give me your seat.”
“How about you get the **** out of the way instead?”
This is where it gets fuzzy, as my memory is less precise with adrenaline running, but I’m piecing together what other people said as well as what makes sense of the escalation of the situation.
Then the guy said something along the lines of, “Man, this kid does not know who he is fucking with.”
Matt then said, “You don’t know who you’re fucking with.”
And the response was, “Does anyone really know who they’re fucking with? If you got a problem, let’s take it outside.”
At this point, Matt is standing at his seat. I am between the two, still sitting, who are maybe 8 feet apart. I’m shaking my head and telling Matt it’s not worth it and his girlfriend is doing the same. At that point, Matt gets the attention of the waitress and asks her to tell this guy to move. She does, and knows him by name. He gives her some sort of annoyed response and begrudgingly, moves out of the way muttering something to his friends and looking back towards Matt now and then.
At the table, we then kind of discuss what happened with some conversation about the guy being a douchebag and trying to start a fight with a guy who is here with an MMA team and how some people go out looking for fights. (While I understand that this sounds like a biased opinion, it is a recount of the events and our actual conversation.)
Matt and his girlfriend sat with us for a while longer, with Matt eventually getting up to go wander around and see his other friends. His girlfriend stayed sitting in the booth with us and Matt eventually came back over to sit with us and watch the main event. He closed out his tab after the Silva vs Sonnen (main event) fight. After the fights were over, my friend and I left. Matt and his girlfriend stuck around with the group they were with.
That was all I saw the night of the incident. Matt’s girlfriend provided a similar recount of events while testifying in court.
I did not see this part, but according to witness testimony at the trial, this is what happened:
There were four witnesses: Matt, one of Matt’s friends/ training partners, the guy from the verbal altercation, and one of that guy’s friends.
According to Matt and his friend: After the fights were over, Matt and a friend went to the bathroom before leaving. While washing their hands, Matt was telling him what happened earlier with the guy, saying that this douchebag had blocked the TV, then tried to start a fight. Because there was only one usable sink, Matt was waiting while his friend washed his hands.
Unbeknownst to them, the guy from earlier actually happened to be in the stall at the time and heard him talking. They heard him snicker and say, "That must be that ****** in the flat billed hat."
There were only four people in the bathroom at this time: Matt and his friend and this guy and his friend.
The guy came out of the stall and was standing, facing Matt, who was waiting to wash his hands. The guy’s friend then stepped away from the urinal and stood beside him, so that they were both facing Matt. Matt and the guy were arguing back and forth, most likely very similarly to the situation at the booth. The guy then, according to both Matt and Matt's friend, reached out and grabbed Matt's throat and said "You're getting out of here."
Matt then punched with his right hand over the guy’s outstrected arm, hitting the left side of his face. The guy then swung back, Matt dodged and the guy overswung, spinning around so his back was to Matt. Matt pushed him into the corner while the guy was elbowing backwards hitting matt in the head. Matt, holding him in the corner as the guy was elbowing backwards, tucked his head into the guy's arm pit to avoid elbows and while tucked in, threw two overhand lefts, hitting the guy in the left side of his head.
At this point, the guy stopped fighting back and put both hands over his face. Matt then stepped back, grabbed his hat and flip flop and left. He was not restrained and did not continue punching after the guy stopped fighting back. (This is something that all four people agree on.) He then got his girlfriend and immediately left the bar.
The guy and his friend then came outside and trying to fight other people from the gym. Police arrived and the guy's friend had be to restrained by police. He was placed in handcuffs and held inside a patrol car, but no charges were filed. The guy in the fight gave a statement to police, then was taken to the hospital.
Matt’s friend from the bathroom was questioned by police, gave a statement, but did not provide Matt’s name.
The following morning, the guy’s brother happened to mention the incident to a friend who knew some of the people at the bar that night. He actually knew Matt’s friend from the bathroom, so called him and let the guy’s brother talk to him.
He explained what happened and how his brother’s eye may have to be removed. Apparently, one of the three punches that Matt threw must have hit the guy’s eyeball instead of the bones surrounding it. This had ruptured the eye and detached the retina. After a few days, and some surgeries, they eye was unresponsive to light was removed. Matt’s friend was unwilling to give them Matt’s name, (according to him, for both legal and safety reasons). He said that the brother understood and would do the same if he was in that situation, then said, “It’s not unusual for my brother to start fights, I guess this time he just messed with the wrong guy.”
From the guy’s girlfriend’s testimony: From the conversation with the friend, they knew the gym where Matt trained. By looking on the Facebook page for the gym, the guy and his girlfriend were able to find pictures of Matt and provide police with a name.
She also said that she had served him three or four beers, but was unaware how much he had to drink over the course of the night.
Matt was arrested a few days later and charged with Malicious Maiming, Assault with a Deadly Weapon, and Aggravated Assault.
The guy’s testimony: In his recount of the booth incident, he said that Matt yelled to “Get the **** out of the way,” but that Matt told him that he didn’t know who he was dealing with and that he had better get out of the way. He said that he moved out of the way on his own, and not at the request of the waitress.
He then said that in the bathroom, he did not say anything about “That must be the ****** in the flat billed hat,” and instead came out of the stall to Matt and his friend standing there with clinched fists. He says that at that point he says, “Really? Over a TV?” and Matt just started punching him unprovoked until he was unconscious. He claims that he did not fight back and never reach out to grab Matt.
Also from the trial, I discovered that this guy was the bartenders boyfriend. He also said that he was drinking on the night of the incident.
The friend’s testimony: He and the guy were in the bathroom. Matt and his friend came in. While washing their hands, they were talking about the guy. The guy then came out of the bathroom and “He and Matt had some words.” At that point, Matt punched him and the guy reached out towards Matt’s chest/ neck to defend himself. When he stopped fighting, Matt stepped back and left.
Everyone agrees that the incident lasts between 5 and 8 seconds and that Matt threw 3 punches total.
The ADA showed videos of three of Matt’s MMA fights in an attempt to convince the jury that Matt’s hands are deadly weapons. No mention of the opponent’s record or experience was made. His contention was that because Matt competes in amateur MMA, his hands are deadly weapons on the same level, legally, as a knife or gun.
The jury, after deliberating came out to ask what the punishment for a guilty verdict would be. The judge said that he could not tell them that. The went back and came back with a verdict for guilty on all three counts.
Matt was sentenced to 72 - 99 months. The prison sentence is based on the guilty verdict for the Malicious Maiming charge. He received a probation sentence for the other two charges.
North Carolina General Statutes § 14-30 Malicious maiming
If any person shall, of malice aforethought, unlawfully cut out or disable the tongue or put out an eye of any other person, with intent to murder, maim or disfigure, the person so offending, his counselors, abettors and aiders, knowing of and privy to the offense, shall be punished as a Class C felon. (22 and 23 Car. II, c. 1 (Coventry Act); 1754, c. 56, P.R.; 1791, c. 339, s. 1, P.R.; 1831, c. 12; R.C., c. 34, s. 14; Code, s. 1080; Rev., s. 3636; C.S., s. 4212; 1979, c. 760, s. 5; 1979, 2nd Sess., c. 1316, s. 47; 1981, c. 63, s. 1, c. 179, s. 14; 1993, c. 539, s. 1135; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c).)
North Carolina is also a “Stand Your Ground” state:
Also, I understand that the detail of the bathroom account I have provided is hearsay, but I attempted to provide the account as described by each of the three witnesses. I am looking to get Matt’s friend, who was in the bathroom, to provide his detailed recount of events.