By Brad Lopez
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
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You may recall reading in the January 16 edition of Feedback about the plight of vocalist Jason Hyland Mather, a member of the band Won Lump Some, who was arrested at Tony's Restaurant and Lounge, a Fort Collins nightspot, after stripping during a performance in the wee hours of December 21. In some ways, the case is on the cusp of a conclusion: Mather has accepted an offer from the district attorney's office in the city and plans to plead guilty at a hearing set for March 28 to charges of attempting to incite a riot (a class 6 felony) and a misdemeanor count of resisting arrest. But the repercussions of the Mather matter continue to resonate throughout the Fort Collins music community. Critics of the police claim that three shows (two involving the Denver bands Foreskin 500 and the Hate Fuck Trio) have been canceled since the ill-fated Won Lump Some gig because of police pressure--and intriguingly, a police spokesman offers at least partial confirmation of these assertions with regard to two of the episodes. The result is a palpable tension between musicians and the men and women in blue that many observers expect will have a chilling effect on the Fort Collins music scene as a whole.
The two most thorough accounts of what happened on the evening of the Mather bust come via Fort Collins police officers Garrett Bachert and Kay Konerza, whose reports stretch out over more than ten pages, and Nelson Axelrod, editor of the Fort Collins underground publication Zeitgeist and a vocal advocate for Mather. As an indication of just how seriously Axelrod takes these occurrences, note that the second of his two articles in defense of Mather is preceded by a quote from the book of Matthew: "There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known."
Both the police and Axelrod agree that Mather was on stage at Tony's around 1:30 a.m. when he disrobed; however, Bachert and Konerza claim that Mather urged those in the crowd to follow suit, while Axelrod indicates that he merely inserted the phrase "Take your clothes off" into the lyrics of "Piggy Back," the song he was performing. At any rate, a number of those in attendance were stripping at the moment the two cops walked in to the establishment. According to Officer Tim Rothschild, who serves as a liaison between the Fort Collins police and the city's liquor-license authority, such a drop-in should not be viewed with suspicion. Tony's is located in Fort Collins's first district, an area in which more police have been assigned to walk beats, Rothschild says, as "an experiment to create more communication between citizens and the police. They're supposed to be out there where they can work more closely with people and get to know everyone in the neighborhood."
In this instance, the experiment didn't run smoothly. Bachert and Konerza say that, upon noticing Mather was naked, they ordered the band to stop playing and grabbed the singer, who allegedly continued to suggest that the attendees "get naked." They also assert that Won Lump Some drummer Clifford Parker III loudly recommended that the crowd "get the cops," at which point the throng began heaving bottles at the stage. One such projectile struck Officer Konerza on the side of the head. No charges were levied against anyone in the club, probably because officers were unable to determine who was at fault. However, one police report characterized the crowd as "very hostile and uncooperative."
Predictably, Axelrod tells quite a different tale. He quotes witnesses who say that Mather said nothing to the police and that Parker actually tried to calm the angry mob; he adds that the response of the clubgoers was a spontaneous protest against the heavy-handed tactics of the police.
In the melee that ensued, Mather actually broke free of Konerza and Bachert and exited the club as quickly as he could. He returned after about an hour and surrendered to the police on the scene. Mather was later charged with the aforementioned offenses, and while he believes that he is not guilty of either one of them, he eventually decided to accept a plea bargain. "They were so gung ho about the whole thing," he says. "To fight this, it would have cost me $15,000 that I don't have, and if I had gone to trial and lost, there was a real chance that I would've been sent to Canon City, and I couldn't risk that." Despite his decision not to prolong prosecution of the case, Mather certainly was not given a sweetheart deal. The attempting-to-incite-a-riot violation carries with it a two-year deferred sentence that may be dropped after one year if he remains crime-free. As for the second charge, which involves resisting arrest, it calls for a penalty of thirty days in stir, which Mather would most likely serve at the Larimer County Detention Center in Fort Collins. As Mather tells it, the judge at the hearing has some discretion in meting out his idea of justice, but he notes that the DA's representatives are pushing for jail time.