Florida man pleads not guilty via affidavit in punching incident

A Florida man charged with involuntary manslaughter after he punched a man who later died at a Strip casino last summer was allowed to plead not guilty via a notarized affidavit Tuesday.

District Judge Abbi Silver accepted Benjamin Hawkins' plea through his attorney, Jack Buchanan.

Hawkins faces the one count for punching John Massie in the face over comments Massie made to Hawkins at O'Shea's casino July 6.

A trial was set for Nov. 26.

Hawkins plans to argue to a jury he was defending himself and his family, his attorney said.

A key piece of evidence in the case is footage of the incident from O'Shea's security cameras.

Both Massie, of Roy, Utah, and Hawkins, of Gainesville, Fla., were vacationing in Las Vegas at the time.

Hawkins, who is black, told police that Massie, who was white, made a comment about "a black man in a yellow shirt," according to Hawkins' arrest report.

Hawkins said he told Massie to shut up and Massie asked him what he was going to do about it, which Hawkins inter­preted as "aggressive," the report said.

The video showed Hawkins turning to leave.

As he walked away, Massie with his hands in his pockets, took three steps toward Hawkins' back.

Hawkins turned in a swift motion and threw a right-handed punch that landed on the left side of Massie's face. He was hit so hard his hands flew out of his pockets.

Massie, 47, landed on the ground, the back of his head slamming into the floor. He died as a result of head trauma suffered when he fell to the floor, the Clark County coroner ruled.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.