Convicted killer Bass Webb is found guilty in spitting case

gkocher1@herald-leader.comJanuary 23, 2013 

Bass Webb

A jury on Wednesday found Bass Webb guilty of third-degree assault for spitting into the face of a Fayette County corrections officer.

The prosecution rested Wednesday afternoon after calling only four witnesses. Webb told Fayette Circuit Judge Kimberly Bunnell that he did not wish to testify in his defense, and no witnesses spoke on his behalf.

Normally the trial would have entered into a penalty phase. But Webb, 33, waived his right to that phase so he could plead guilty to another charge of being a persistent felony offender in the first degree.

By pleading guilty to that charge, the five-year sentence on the assault charge was enhanced to 10 years. That 10-year sentence will be served in addition to a 15-year sentence for assaulting another Fayette County corrections officer and a 50-year sentence for the murder of Bryia Runiewicz, an estranged girlfriend, in Harrison County.

Webb also had felony convictions for wanton endangerment and theft by unlawful taking in Menifee County. But by law he cannot be made to serve more than 70 years in prison.

On Wednesday, the jury of eight women and four men found Webb guilty of spitting into the face of corrections officer Roy Compston at the Fayette County Detention Center on Feb. 2, 2011. They returned the verdict after about 50 minutes of deliberations.

Compston told the jury that Webb spat into his face after Webb's cell had been searched for contraband. Jail staffers had suspected that Webb might be hiding broken compact discs, the sharp edges of which could be used as weapons. No contraband was found in Webb's cell.

Webb, whose hands were cuffed behind his back, cooperated with three officers participating in the search. But after the search, Webb turned and spat in Compston's face. Compston said the spit landed "around my forehead and upper nose area."

"At any point, did you or any detention officer strike the defendant?" asked Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Todd Bradbury.

"No," Compston said.

Officer Kristin Mitchell testified that she witnessed the spitting incident.

"I saw saliva on his face," Mitchell said of Compston.

Mitchell also testified that Webb told the detention officers, "Every time this door is open, I'm going to assault somebody."

In his closing argument, public defender Tom Griffiths noted that the incident on Feb. 2, 2011, and another about a month earlier in which Webb threw three food trays at Compston, happened shortly before the evening meal. Webb is a diabetic, and Griffiths said low blood sugar can cause mood swings in people with the disease.

"Is that something that contributed to this situation? We don't know," Griffiths said.

But Bradbury noted Compston's testimony that Webb threw the food trays for another reason.

"Diabetes did not cause him to spit in the officer's face," Bradbury said. "He was pissed off that he was getting milk rather than Kool-Aid. That's what it takes to set him off."

Webb is also accused of spitting on Bourbon District Judge Vanessa Dickson during an August 2009 hearing. He was indicted on a charge of intimidating a judicial officer. A status hearing on that case is scheduled for Jan. 31 in Bourbon Circuit Court.

Webb is also accused of murder in the death of Sabrina Marie Vaughn in Montgomery County. That trial is scheduled for April in Mount Sterling.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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