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Florida man posts bail after fatal punch at O’Sheas

Updated Wednesday, July 13, 2011 | 4:20 p.m.

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Benjamin Gerard Hawkins

A high school football coach facing a murder charge after throwing a fatal punch at O'Sheas on the Las Vegas Strip is returning home to Florida.

Benjamin Hawkins of Gainesville posted bail Tuesday night after a judge set the bail at $25,000, a police spokesman said. Hawkins, 37, is due back in Las Vegas court in September.

Defense attorney Jack Buchanan told The Associated Press Wednesday that Hawkins will reside in Florida throughout the case, but will return to Las Vegas as necessary. Hawkins has pleaded not guilty.

Hawkins told police he punched John Massie, 46, after Massie referred to a "black man in a yellow shirt" while both men were in a public restroom at O'Shea's on July 6.

Hawkins, who is black, said he told Massie, who was white, to shut up. Then two men later squared off in a food court area of the Irish-themed casino.

Hawkins allegedly told police he perceived Massie's actions as aggressive, and feared that if he turned his back on Massie, he'd be attacked from behind. He punched Massie once in the jaw, according to a police report.

Both men were vacationing in Las Vegas at the time. Massie was visiting from Roy, Utah. Efforts to reach Massie family members in Utah were not immediately successful.

The Clark County coroner determined Massie died of a head injury from the punch and from hitting the floor. The death was classified as a homicide.

Buchanan said he believes witness statements and security videotape of the confrontation will confirm Hawkins' account.

"We feel he was acting in self-defense," Buchanan said.

Benjamin Hawkins is a teacher and assistant football coach at Bradford County High School in Starke, Fla. A school spokeswoman said Wednesday that no disciplinary action has been taken against Hawkins.

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