A former Miami Twp. trustee candidate now serving a jail term after pleading guilty to an assault on a fellow Cleveland Browns fan outside the stadium after a game last year is facing more legal issues.
Zebulon Music is also facing a $275,000 civil lawsuit stemming from the criminal case, which his attorney said Tuesday was “a strong case of self-defense.”
Music, 34, is spending two weekends in the Cuyahoga County Jail, forfeiting his Browns season tickets and paying $40,000 to a Toledo area first-responder hurt in the Nov. 4, 2018 incident after the Kansas City Chiefs game, court records show.
Music spent Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 in jail, and must do the same on Dec. 7-8 after pleading guilty Nov. 25 in a dispute involving Joshua Hillabrand, according to Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court records.
Hillabrand, 29, has been a firefighter in Lake Twp. near Toledo. He was knocked unconscious and suffered a brain bleed, Cleveland’s WOIO reported, spending several days in the hospital.
The civil lawsuit filed Oct. 31 claims Music caused him to “suffer severe, permanent and debilitating injuries.”
Defense attorney Eric Long said the two were involved in a “fight” and “facing each other. This was not a punch from behind.”
Long described his client as a “family man.” Music was an unsuccessful Miami Twp. trustee candidate in 2017, and has served on the Montgomery County Democratic Party Executive Committee and Central Committee.
Citing the civil lawsuit, Long declined to discuss what caused the incident. But he said the two were facing each other when Hillabrand “had his hand raised about to punch forward” and Music hit him to protect himself.
After Music’s arraignment in 2018, Long said a handful of “independent witnesses” came forward and disputed initial reports that Hillabrand was “sucker punched” by client.
“To us, this has always been seen as a self-defense case,” Long said.
The attorney said those witness accounts “are what made us move the needle with the prosecutor’s office” on reducing the charge.
Music was initially indicted on felonious assault, a felony. He pleaded guilty to reckless assault, a misdemeanor, Long said.
The decision not to go to trial, he said, included a combination of several factors. Those ranged from the uncertainty of a jury trial with a possible prison sentence to Music’s concerns for his family, career and future, Long said.
“He’s not proud of the fact that he was in a fight,” Long said. “He’s a family man. He wanted to get back to his wife and his kids.”
The lawsuit seeks $250,000 in punitive damages and $25,000 in compensatory damages. It claims Music caused Hillabrand to “suffer severe, permanent and debilitating injuries.”
As a result of Music’s conduct, Hillabrand “fell to the ground, struck his face and head on the ground and suffered bodily injuries, permanent in nature, including but not limited to pain and suffering and emotional distress,” the lawsuit states.
Because of Music’s actions, he “incurred medical expenses and other economic damages in an amount to be ascertained and continues to incur medical expenses and other economic damages,” according to the lawsuit.
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