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Law graduate pleads not guilty in death of Ed’s Tavern patron

In a court hearing that lasted 48 seconds, Kenan Gay pleaded not guilty Thursday in the death last year of an Ed’s Tavern patron.

Robert Kingston III, who was 30, was struck by a car outside the bar in Dilworth on the evening of March 3, 2012. At issue in the case is whether Gay pushed Kingston in front of the car, as police allege – or whether Gay pushed him out of the front door of the bar and Kingston stumbled on his own into the street, as defense attorneys allege.

Gay, 24, is charged with second-degree murder.

“How does the defendant plead?” Superior Court Judge Robert Sumner asked.

“He pleads not guilty and requests a jury trial,” said defense attorney Christopher Fialko.

Asked afterwards why Gay rejected a plea offer from prosecutors, defense attorney David Rudolf said: “From our perspective, this is a tragic accident. No one is criminally responsible here.”

Fialko said they were told there is such a backlog of cases the trial will not be held until 2014.

Gay graduated in December from Charlotte School of Law and he said he is working as a consultant for an economics firm. Because of the criminal charge against him, he cannot sit for the bar. At least 19 friends and family members accompanied him to court Thursday, including his fiancée; she and Gay are planning to marry later this month.

Last March, on the day after Kingston’s death, bar owner Alan Cole told the Observer that Gay grabbed Kingston by the collar, ran him to the edge of the street and tossed him into the traffic lane.

But defense attorneys have said the altercation between the two men began after Kingston approached Gay’s girlfriend several times while she stood near the front door of the bar listening to a band. The attorneys said Kingston grabbed her buttocks and leaned towards her in an apparent attempt to kiss her.

They said Gay reacted by pushing Kingston out the door. “I felt like I didn’t want it to progress any farther,” Gay told the Observer in an interview last March. Gay’s attorneys said Kingston lurched into the street on his own.

According to a medical examiner’s report, Kingston had a blood alcohol level of .29 percent, more than three times the legal limit.

Complicating Gay’s defense is the fact that he ran off after Kingston was struck.

“When you realize that in any way you are responsible for someone ending up in a position like that, you panic,” Rudolf said. “That’s what happened here.”

Leland: 704-358-5074
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