Defendant in box cutter case sentenced

Kevin Avery

Kevin Avery

FRONT ROYAL – Kevin Avery was in costume advertising Liberty Tax Service in the 400 block of South Street on March 25 when a fight broke out between him and another man.

By the time it was over, Avery had sprayed the victim, Mason Cullers, 24, with pepper spray, wrestled him to the ground and slashed him several times with a box cutter.

The incident led to Avery entering an Alford plea of guilty on Tuesday in Warren County Circuit Court. Circuit Judge Ronald Napier sentenced him to five years in prison, all suspended, and three years supervised probation. An Alford plea allows a defendant to continue to insist he is innocent while acknowledging the prosecution has enough evidence to convict him.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden told Napier the fight grew out of a social media feud between Cullers and Avery over a woman, identified in court documents as Cullers’ girlfriend.

“The Facebook postings grew heated to say the least,” Madden said.

Cullers survived several wounds to his arms in the melee. He and Avery, who suffered a bloody nose, were taken to Warren Memorial Hospital.

Madden said it was unclear who started the fight, but Cullers approached Avery while the defendant was holding a sign for Liberty Tax Service on the sidewalk by the Royal Plaza shopping center on South Street.

A court document filed by a Front Royal police officer says Avery believed Cullers “wanted to fight.”

The court document says Avery told the officer that he then pushed and punched Cullers, and the fight escalated with Avery using pepper spray in an attempt to blind Cullers.

“They wrestled and ended up on the ground,” Madden said.

Madden said a crowd had gathered around when Avery pulled out a box cutter and began slashing at Cullers.

“He had the upper hand,” Madden said of Avery, adding that the witnesses helped break up the fight before more injuries were inflicted.

Avery, who had no prior criminal record, was initially charged with malicious wounding, a more serious offense than unlawful wounding. Madden said the evidence supported no more than a charge of unlawful wounding.

He said the suspended prison sentence combined with supervised probation was within the state’s sentencing guidelines for unlawful wounding.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com

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