Man sentenced to life for 2013 assault
by Ron Harris
Mar 18, 2014 | 10152 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A Pineywoods man was sentenced Monday to two life terms in prison for a brutal assault against a man with learning disabilities.

Joe Bennett Graves, 29, was convicted of first-degree assault and first-degree robbery and sentenced to two life terms by Circuit Judge Jerry Selman. The sentences are to be served consecutively.

Assistant District Attorney Matt Dougherty was the lead prosecutor in the trial, which started Thursday.

The jury in the case deliberated for a little more than an hour before finding Graves guilty.

Graves was accused of brutally assaulting 24-year-old Jason Alexander McCurry on Jan. 4, 2013.

Graves’ half-brother, 33-year-old Billy Joe Bailey, has also been charged with first-degree assault and first-degree robbery and is set to be tried later this year.

Walker County District Attorney Bill Adair said the assault happened as McCurry was walking to a friend’s house along a road in Pineywoods.

Adair said Graves and Bailey allegedly chased McCurry down the road, caught him and Graves brutally beat him with a stick while Bailey held him down.

McCurry suffered severe injuries, including a dislocated jaw that required surgery. He continues to suffer from short-term memory loss.

“The allegations were that a stick was used and they robbed him of $30,” Adair said. “He was knocked unconscious, his jaw was broken and he woke up wandering around the community.”

Bailey, who was out on bond last week, was jailed by Selman Thursday after allegedly intimidating a juror hearing his brother’s case. Bailey will be held until his case is heard later this year, Adair said.

Dougherty said getting the case to trial as quickly as possible was key to securing a conviction.

“It got to trial really quick, and we’re really happy about that, especially when you’re dealing with a victim who has memory issues and learning disabilities like Jason,” Dougherty said.

Graves had been convicted twice before of assaulting McCurry, Dougherty said, including a felony assault conviction in Cullman County. In that case, Graves pleaded guilty and was given probation.

Adair credited Dougherty, along with Assistant District Attorney Chris Sherer, Sheriff’s Investigator Ralph Williams and Deputy Alfred Grace, with securing Monday’s conviction against Graves.

“They did a great job in this case,” Adair said.

Adair said Graves’ prior assaults against McCurry played a role in the severity of the sentence handed down by Selman.

“I’m very happy for the Pineywoods community,” Adair said. “There’s a lot of fine people who live there, and they’ve been very concerned about this case. I’m very proud for that community.”

Adair commended Selman for the sentence given to Graves.

“I think the sentence was very appropriate in this case,” Adair added. “You’ve got a victim who’s been assaulted twice before, and a defendant who’s been convicted twice before for assaulting this victim. This defendant is going right where he needs to go.”

“He was an obvious predator,” Dougherty added. “That’s what they do; they prey on the weak. And that’s why this sentence is appropriate. On the surface, it may seem harsh, but I think it’s highly appropriate in this case.”