Arkansas man claims he agreed to 20-year sentence in DOC to avoid ‘torturous conduct’ in Adams County Jail

Mario Mason

Mario Mason | Photo courtesy of Adams County Jail

QUINCY — An Arkansas man serving a 20-year sentence for two counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault in the Illinois Department of Corrections filed a motion last month to withdraw his guilty plea that he claims he accepted to avoid “torturous conduct by officials” in the Adams County Jail.

Mario Mason, 41, of Turrell, Ark., entered his guilty plea on Aug. 26. Judge Amy Lannerd sentenced him to 10 years in the DOC on each count. The two counts will run consecutively. Illinois’ “Truth in Sentencing” for violent crimes applied to Mason’s case. He must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before he can get out of prison. 

Now incarcerated in the Graham Correctional Center in Hillsboro, Mason filed his motion Sept. 16 in Adams County Circuit Court. Lannerd assigned public defender Todd Nelson during a hearing on the case last Tuesday.

One count of aggravated kidnapping, also a Class X felony, plus two counts of threatening a public official and single counts of kidnapping, aggravated domestic battery, theft, aggravated battery in a public place and aggravated battery were dropped as part of the plea.

In his motion, Mason claims his attorney, public defender Vanessa Pratt, told him on Aug. 19 that the state has offered him 20 years in the Department of Corrections at a 50 percent statutory sentence credit in exchange for his guilty plea to the aggravated criminal sexual assault charges. 

Mason said he told Pratt he would accept the deal, but he claims Pratt told him she didn’t want him to accept the 20-year prison sentence at 50 percent and that she would give him a week to think about it.

Mason then claims Pratt told him on Aug. 23 the state had changed the original offer and now was offering 20 years at 85 percent. Mason says he rejected the offer.

Three days later, Mason says Pratt visited him before he was to appear in court and said the state had “dumped their offer” of 20 years at 85 percent and now was offering 14 years at 50 percent. Mason said he told Pratt he would accept that offer. Pratt told him she would return before the hearing to make sure Mason wanted to accept the deal.

Mason said when he arrived in court on Aug. 26, Pratt told him the state changed its offer back to 20 years at 85 percent “because they know they have the upper hand.”

“As a result of the ineffective assistance of counsel, the defendant was denied the benefit of the bargain as it pertains to the state’s offer of 14 years at 50 percent,” Mason wrote in his motion. 

“Furthermore, (Mason) was forced to engage in a plea deal of 20 years at 85 percent because he experienced torture at the county jail, (during) which he was subjected to a strip cell with no clothes for months. (Mason) was forced to plead guilty to get out (of) the strip cell and torturous conduct by the jail officials, (during) which he experienced cold days and nights, sleep deprivation, hearing voices, pain and suffering.”

When contacted Monday, Adams County Sheriff Rich Wagner said he had not heard of any claims from Mason. However, he said he would investigate Mason’s charges.

Mason claims he did not understand any of the proceedings against him. 

He claims he disclosed in court he was innocent of the charges against him and disclosed witnesses who would have testified on his behalf. However, he said Pratt failed to interrogate, interview or subpoena any of them.

Mason was charged with taking Tabitha Campbell of Quincy against her will on July 17, 2021. Quincy Police began its investigation two days later. Officers conducted a search warrant in a room at the Welcome Inn, which led to the discovery of evidence relating to an alleged aggravated domestic battery and kidnapping.

Campbell was found July 21, 2021 in Marked Tree, Ark., after escaping from Mason. Mason was captured Sept. 14, 2021 in Marshall County, Ky.

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