Three more men face felony assault charges in Madison County tied to a bloody bar fight in Virginia City on the night of July 10 that seriously injured a husband and wife from Gallatin County. Another defendant was charged Thursday with misdemeanor assault for his alleged role in the incident, bringing to five the number of alleged bar fight participants facing criminal charges.
In early August, Madison County authorities filed the first charge tied to the altercation. Christopher Michael Kase, then 35, was charged with aggravated assault, accountability to aggravated assault and three misdemeanors. The Arizona man has posted bond in the case and secured an attorney, according to Justin Ekwall, deputy county attorney in Madison County.
Authorities said all of the defendants had ties to the non-profit Heroes and Horses, which has a ranch near Virginia City and provides programming for male combat veterans suffering from PTSD.
Ekwall said the evidence suggests the four men facing felony assault charges were, like Kase, attending the program as clients. The defendants are William Robert Haley, 45, of Salt Lake City; Dalton Fish, 28, of Dowelltown, Tennessee; and, Karson Edward Yuan, 27, Phoenix, Arizona.
Ekwall said the investigation suggests the man charged with misdemeanor assault, Ethan Jacob Choate, 27, said to live in Nebraska, was an employee in Madison County of Heroes and Horses.
Haley and Fish are charged with aggravated assault and accountability to aggravated assault. Yuan is charged with accountability to aggravated assault.
The accountability charge alleges a defendant played a role in aiding and abetting the assault of another person. Ekwall said an example would be holding someone while they are being punched by another.
Witnesses said the altercation began inside the Pioneer Bar around 10:40 p.m. and then escalated outside the bar on the boardwalk once the bartender cleared the bar.
Three patrons of the bar that night, Maggie and Cody Monaghan and Chase Monaghan, Cody’s brother, said they had stopped in for a drink after attending the Brewery Follies in Virginia City.
Madison County Sheriff Phil Fortner said in August that accounts of what happened next varied, as they tend to do in most bar fights, he said.
Yuan told deputies that a woman inside the bar initiated the pushing and shoving and that when he and others in his group left the bar they were blindsided by people pushing them. He acknowledged seeing a man bleeding profusely in the street but said he believed the man had tripped on the curb and fallen in front of a vehicle.
The Monaghans’ version was that a man standing with a few companions at the bar walked over to their table and confronted Chase Monaghan and grabbed his sunglasses.
Ekwall’s affidavit cites video surveillance footage from the bar that seems to support this version. And it reports that two females, including Maggie Monaghan, respond by pushing the man, identified in court documents as Kase. More pushing and shoving ensues.
Two female witnesses told deputies that “a fight erupted inside the bar after [Chase Monaghan’s] glasses were thrown to the ground,” the affidavit reports.
Court documents report, “The altercation in the bar appears from the footage to have been disruptive in nature but to have primarily involved shoving, grabbing, and holding, with few punches or kicks thrown.”
Things got a lot worse outside.
Video shows Fish and Maggie Monaghan pushing each other. She tries to punch Fish and he responds by throwing her off the boardwalk in front of the bar, records show.
“When reviewing the incident frame by frame, Fish appears to be smiling as he does so,” the affidavit says.
He told deputies later that during the fight outside he got a few licks in and got a few licks back, court records show.
Meanwhile, Cody Monaghan was soon in a world of hurt, according to the investigation. Witnesses said he was held and punched and then fell to the ground, where he was allegedly kicked by men later identified as suspects. He suffered facial fractures, a broken nose and multiple contusions, records show, and was later hospitalized.
When Sheriff’s Sgt. Alec Winn arrived at the scene, he “observed a large amount of blood on the street near [Cody Monaghan’s] location,” according to the affidavit.
Maggie Monaghan later told authorities that her injuries included a concussion and a fractured elbow.
Affidavits filed by Ekwall reported that sheriff’s deputies who responded around 10:45 p.m. on July 10 to reports of a fight at the Pioneer Bar interviewed witnesses who observed several of the fight’s combatants appeared to be from the Heroes and Horses program near Virginia City.
Around 1 a.m. on July 11, Sheriff’s Sgt. Winn and two deputies arrived at the Heroes and Horses property in Nevada City and interviewed both staff and program participants over the next hour or so, according to court records.
The deputies reported observing what appeared to be blood “on the heel and top of the foot of Kase’s right boot” and on a pants leg. Similarly, deputies observed what appeared to be blood on Yuan’s right boot and on Fish’s left pants leg.
Haley, meanwhile, appeared to have drops of blood on his left shoe and swelling around his right eye, records show.
Heroes and Horses, founded by Micah Fink, a former Navy SEAL and paramilitary contractor, started in 2014. Fink has said he was motivated by recognizing that suicide and addiction rates continued to rise among veterans in spite of the work of thousands of PTSD-related nonprofits and billions of dollars spent annually.
Heroes and Horses says it works “to offer combat veterans an alternative solution for defining and approaching their physical and mental scars – a solution that does not include prescription medications or traditional psychotherapy but rather the opportunity to use tools to redefine their purpose, rediscover their inner strength, and maximize their potential by taking ownership of their lives for the first time since leaving service.”
Positive articles about the nonprofit’s work have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Men’s Journal and elsewhere.
Fink provided a statement Friday from the organization he founded.
“Heroes and Horses’ mission is to provide life-saving personal infrastructure for American military heroes who have suffered emotional scarring after being wounded by war. Heroes and Horses has grown to be a respected program aimed at addressing the unique needs of veterans in the United States. Heroes and Horses values our community and remains committed to our mission of changing the lives of our veterans through our rigorous program.”