Darien, N.Y. --- A man attending the Kid Rock concert at Darien Lake on Friday is now in a coma. Police reports and court documents indicate that Jason McNeil, 43, was punched in the face by Craig Lawson, 34.
McNeil was then flown to Erie County Medical Center where he remains in critical condition.
Lawson was charged with 3rd Degree Assault and promptly posted $1,000 bail before returning to his home in Ontario, Canada.
McNeil’s family, through various public websites on Facebook and GiveForward.com, explains that the father of two daughters is in a coma. They are gathering funds to help support McNeil’s family during this difficult time.
Jason McNeil: "A Family Guy"
McNeil grew up in Western New York and was back in the area visiting family when he attended the Kid Rock Concert on Friday, July 5th. He currently lives in Alabama with his wife and two daughters. In addition to his job as a businessman McNeil is very involved in at least two charities.
He is a board member for United Cerebral Palsy of West Alabama and Erin Treadwell tells 13WHAM News that McNeil was also very involved in the local Kiwanis Club.
"Jason has always been one of those model board members that everyone wants to have on their board and involved with their agency and he goes above and beyond what's required of a board member,” said Treadwell. "He's a family guy; he's a good guy all around.”
News of McNeil’s current condition has many in that part of Alabama keeping him and his family in their prayers.
"We're all very hopeful and praying that he's going to make this full recovery as fast as possible," said Treadwell. "It's just absolutely tragic you always see this stuff on the news and you never really associate it with someone who is so wonderful like Jason, whose so involved in the community. He always cares about everybody else above himself and so to hear that this has happened to someone like him who we are so closely associated with it's an absolutely tragic thing.”
Court documents on file at the Town of Darien and provided to 13WHAM News by The Batavian detail two eyewitness accounts of what happened after that Kid Rock concert.
One witness is Jennifer Burns, McNeil’s cousin, and she told deputies:
“When I was coming out of the concert after it was over, some guy came up to my cousin, Jason McNeil, and punched him the face with a closed fist. Jason proceeded to fall backwards and hit his head on the pavement and did NOT MOVE. Jason was not arguing with anyone and I have no idea why he was punched.”
Another witness is John Zambek, an employee of Darien Lake Performing Arts Center. He told deputies:
“…at approximately 11:15 p.m. I was standing at one of the exit gates, the handicap gate. I saw a man wearing a red tee shirt arguing with a male that was younger than him. The man in the red pushed the younger kid. The younger looking male was walking backwards and the male in the red pulled his arm way back and punched the younger looking kid. I heard the punch hit the kid and the face and I also heard the younger kids head hit the ground.”
McNeil was taken by Mercy Flight to ECMC in Buffalo.
Genesee County Sheriff’s Office Deputies charged Craig Malcolm Lawson with Assault in the 3rd Degree, a charge that alleges “intent to cause physical injury to another person.” The deputy’s criminal complaint states that Lawson “did punch Jason McNeil in the head with a closed fist causing him to lose consciousness and fall to the pavement. As a result Jason McNeil suffered a head laceration.”
Lawson was arraigned in front of a Darien Town Justice hours after the incident.
Questions About Lawson’s Bail
Lawson was arraigned and held on $1,000 bail. He promptly posted that and returned to Ontario, Canada.
Another man, Jordan Apps, 35 and also of Ontario, Canada, was also arrested after that concert. Apps was charged with Criminal Mischief 3rd Degree for punching out the window of a vehicle. He was held in custody on $20,000 bail.
Sources familiar with each investigation indicate that Apps was not with Lawson that night. They also tell 13WHAM News that while Apps has a prior criminal history, none was found for Lawson.
But why the drastically different bail amounts given each situation?
"There are so many things that go into making a bail determination by a court and I don't know enough about the circumstances of either of the cases that you're mentioning that I could really say what the reason would be,” Genesee County District Attorney Larry Friedman explained. "The bail determination is made based on a number of factors but the bottom-line is the likelihood of the person returning to court when they're supposed to so it is not just the offense or the level of offense, the court looks at the person. Do they own a home? Do they have a family? Do they have a job? Do they have a criminal history? There are a lot of things that are looked at.”
Friedman and other law enforcement sources tell 13WHAM News that $1,000 is not an uncommon bail amount for a person facing a misdemeanor Assault charge.
Criminal Mischief 3rd Degree, the charge Apps faces, is a felony-level charge and that typically carries a higher bail amount officials noted.
Lawson’s lawyer is currently New York State Senator Michael Ranzenhoffer. Ranzenhoffer did not return calls that 13WHAM News placed to his law office on Wednesday.
D.A. Friedman said he has every reason to believe that Lawson will return to Genesee County on July 30th for his next scheduled court appearance.
"Sometimes people do what they're supposed to do and show up when they're supposed to and sometimes they don't and obviously there are procedures to bring people in when they don't come in voluntarily,” said D.A. Friedman. “It is something we've had to do on occasion before, yes.”
Could Lawson Face More Serious Charges?
Assault in the 3rd Degree is a Misdemeanor and carries with it a maximum sentence of one year in county jail.
The possibility of increasing the charge against Lawson still exists. Assault in the 2nd Degree carries with it a possible prison sentence of two-to-seven years.
D.A. Friedman tells 13WHAM News that his office is waiting to review the packet of information that deputies will provide his office before commenting on specifics. He noted that McNeil’s injuries and medical condition will be weighed in that review.
"A person's condition and the level of the injuries certainly could affect the level the offense and how we're going to handle it,” said Friedman.
Chief Deputy Gordon Dibble of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office tells 13WHAM News that an investigator is assigned to the case and that it remains an active investigation.
A spokeswoman for Darien Lake tells 13WHAM News that a company called "Live Nation" is technically in charge of the performing arts center venue during concerts. Efforts to contact Live Nation for comment are still underway.
Darien Lake General Manager Bob Montgomery also issued this statement:
"At the conclusion of the Kid Rock concert on July 5th, two men had an altercation during which one was struck in the head and was rendered unconscious. The incident occurred
inside the Performing Arts Center, which is operated and managed by Live Nation.
Live Nation security and medical personnel, as well as the Genesee County Sherriff’s Department, responded. The unconscious man was taken to Erie County Medical
Center where he is currently being treated."