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January 31, 2015

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Teacher to be arraigned next month in Strip casino punching death

Judge allows teacher, who lives in Florida, to make plea in abstentia


Steve Marcus

Judge William Jansen, seated left, and Metro Police Homicide Detective Jeff Rosgen, seated right, watch a security video tape on a laptop during a preliminary hearing in District Court Tuesday Feb. 28, 2012. Standing are Deputy District Attorney Colleen Brown, defendant Benjamin Gerard Hawkins, and defense attorney Jack Buchanan. Hawkins, a Gainesville, Fla., teacher who was on vacation, is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of another tourist after an altercation at O’Sheas in July.

Teacher Faces Manslaughter Charges

Benjamin Gerard Hawkins, center, confers with attorneys James Kelly, left, and Jack Buchanan during a preliminary hearing in District Court Tuesday Feb. 28, 2012. Hawkins, a Gainesville, Fla., teacher who was on vacation, is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of another tourist after an altercation at O'Sheas in July. Launch slideshow »

A Florida teacher facing an involuntary manslaughter charge for throwing a punch at a Utah man last summer at a Las Vegas Strip casino will have his next court date in May.

Benjamin Hawkins, 38, a teacher now in an administrative post at a school district in Gainsville, Fla., is scheduled to be formally arraigned at 9 a.m. May 15 in Clark County District Court.

Hawkins is accused of causing the death of John Massie, 46, during an altercation they had at 12:40 a.m. July 6 on the casino floor at O’Shea’s.

A video played during Hawkins’ preliminary hearing in February showed Massie coming out of a bathroom, stopping and putting his hands in his pockets.

Then it showed Hawkins coming out of the restroom, walking past Massie, the two having words, then Hawkins taking a few steps over to his friend and his wife, who were at a blackjack table about five feet away.

Massie then took three steps, coming up behind Hawkins when Hawkins spun around and punched him. Hawkins told police that Massie had bumped into him in the restroom, insulted him racially and then waited for him outside the bathroom, where they continued to have words before he turned around and hit Massie.

Hawkins’ attorney, Jack Buchanan, told the judge there was no battery because the video showed Hawkins was defending himself from what he saw as aggressive behavior by an intoxicated man.

After the punch, Massie didn't get up. Massie was taken to Desert Springs Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:08 a.m. July 6.

The coroner said the cause of death was not the punch, but an injury to Massey's brain when the back of his head hit the floor.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Maria Lavell told the judge that the state had shown there was evidence of a punch being thrown and the coroner saying the death was a result of the effects of the punch.

During a court hearing Monday for Hawkins, Arraignment Hearing Master Melisa De La Garza reset his arraignment before District Judge Abbi Silver, who has allowed him to make a written plea in abstentia. Hawkins is out of custody on his own recognizance.

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  1. im surprised this doesnt happen more often...little sleep, lots of booze and big egos are perfect mix to create a situation like this.

    these punches are thrown every night in vegas, they just dont result in a death. sad thing is the guy who got punched probably deserved it, now this guy who was charged will probably get some jail time, lose his job and everything else.

    i think its getting worse, ive been in near miss situations like this more in the last few years than ever. some a hole tried to shove me out of the way from getting a drink at the bar in the palazzo last year, i called him a m-fer and dared him to stand up. i would have knocked the crap out of him if he would have stood up, i wanted to hit him while he was sitting, but being from a police family i regained my composure and didnt.

    its to bad this happened, i guess the lesson here is to keep your hands to yourself, if for no other reason, than you never know who has a gun, or 5 friends.

    las vegas can be a dangerous place, i think the same week this happened several other people died on the strip from violence. uniformed officers need to be everywhere, including the clubs...

    i dont think its going to get any better...

  2. More of the tolerant peacefull union teachers?

  3. we can all pretend we are saints when speculating about how to handle an aggressive situation.

    @ tom D i dont recall saying some guy grabbed me from the back and shoved me out of the way, if someone did that he would never got the opportunity to sit down. this fine drunk a-hole decided to throw his body violently in my direction as i was paying for my drink, this was not a mistake on his part...he just didnt count on me not taking it...maybe after my response he wont do this again..

    violence is never the answer, but sometimes the threat of it is the only thing some people understand.

    a few months ago my friends and our wives were partying at the rio on the roof (voodoo lounge) when some random drunk guy wouldnt leave one of our wives alone, even when ask nicely, (gee tom, that should have worked!)...he thought because he was there with 2 of his friends he could do what he wanted...he didnt count on there being 10 of us..he and his 2 friends backed down quickly when confronted with 10 guys.

    asking nicely in vegas is usually a waste of time..but certainly worth at least one try..

    i did say i fact ive never been in a fight in vegas..doesnt mean i havent stood up for myself.

    i dont know where you were a bartender...but ive seen fights at pure, bank, carnival ct. rio, house of blues, hard rock, palms, and just about every club on the strip....its hard to mix so many different people from so many different places.

    if it were so safe all the clubs and casinos wouldnt need all the bouncers and security that they have.

    bottom line the vegas strip is full of people just looking for trouble.

    maybe im just being honest when i said i wanted to punch someone...but wanting to and doing it are two different things...and maybe it offends you.

    i love vegas, but it has more than its share of angry people, who are looking for trouble, from the gangs that roam the strip to the drunk 20 something year olds flexing their muscles this can be one dangerous have to be smart, pay attention, dont offend people, and be ready to take action if needed.

    i guess if you stay in your room at the wynn and only venture to the spa and have a nice dinner or two, you may never see violence...but if you get out and really hit the scene you will see more than your share of violence, every night..and if you dont believe this then i dont think you you have ever really been out...or are just not observant...

    clearly being violent has ruined two lives...

  4. "Las Vegas can be a dangerous place"?

    The world is a dangerous place. Las Vegas has nothing to do with it.