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Man to testify in 1-punch Vegas Strip casino death

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — A former Florida high school teacher and football coach is due to testify that he endured taunts and racial insults from a Utah man he's accused of killing with a single punch outside a Las Vegas Strip casino restroom.

Benjamin Gerard Hawkins' defense attorney said Hawkins is scheduled to testify Thursday, the fourth day of his involuntary manslaughter trial in the July 2011 death of 38-year-old John Massie.

Hawkins is black and from Gainesville, Fla. Massie was white and from Roy, Utah. Both were visiting Las Vegas when they encountered each other in a restroom at O'Shea's Casino.

Hawkins told a casino security guard and police he was defending himself when he punched Massie following derogatory comments about a "black man in a yellow shirt" as Hawkins washed his hands. Hawkins' wife and a couple of friends were at a casino table several feet away when the fateful punch was thrown.

Buchanan told jurors during opening statements that Massie taunted Hawkins with verbal challenges inside and outside the men's room.

Silent security video shows the two men a few feet apart and appearing to interact with each other. Hawkins, the larger man, is clearly visible in a yellow polo shirt. Massie has his hands in his pockets.

With Massie's daughter in the courtroom Wednesday, Las Vegas police Detective Jeff Rosgen testified for the prosecution that he asked Hawkins repeatedly to specify the threat or racial comment that prompted him to turn while walking away from Massie and punch him in the jaw.

Hawkins wasn't specific, Rosgen said. But Hawkins told investigators he interpreted Massie's actions toward him as aggressive and feared that if he turned his back on Massie, he would be punched in the back of the head.

Silent security video shows Massie falling backward after the punch and hitting his head on the casino floor. The Clark County coroner determined he died of a head injury. The death was classified as a homicide.

Hawkins could face probation or up to four years in prison depending on the outcome of the case in Clark County District Court. He was put on administrative duties at Bradford County High School in Starke, Fla., in 2011, pending the outcome of the Las Vegas case.

O'Shea's, owned by Caesars Entertainment Corp., has since been demolished to make way for a Ferris wheel-style attraction on Las Vegas Boulevard.

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