When the guy in the bar first started hitting on his girlfriend, Kenan Gay laughed. When the same guy tried to kiss her, Gay rushed him out the door.
Those separate reactions set the poles on a courtroom debate Friday in Gay’s second-degree murder trial.
Gay is expected to testify next week. For the past two days, defense witnesses have spoken for him, describing the defendant as even-keeled, respectful and slow to anger. Friends have said the love between him and his wife Liz Wicker Gay is built on independence and trust.
Some of the workings of that relationship became a matter of public record March 3, 2012. That night, when the couple was still dating, Gay was arrested in connection with the death of Robert “Robb” Kingston, a man that Wicker Gay testified had “hit on” her throughout that night at Ed’s Tavern. She said Kingston had groped her and tried to kiss her moments before her husband pushed him out of the bar.
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Prosecutors say Gay actually threw Kingston into Park Road where he was hit by a passing car. Gay then fled on foot. In court this week, Assistant District Attorneys Anna Greene and Jay Ashendorf have said that Wicker Gay and others have exaggerated Kingston’s advances to justify Gay’s actions.
Defense lawyers Sonya Pfeiffer and David Rudolf say Kingston’s death was an accident. They say Gay pushed Kingston out the bar to protect his girlfriend. From there, they say, the drunken Kingston stumbled into the path of the car.
Gay and Wicker became engaged two months after his arrest and have been married about a year. At Ed’s Tavern, they were part of the same group, drinking on a Saturday night.
Kingston, 30, stood nearby. He exchanged words with Wicker. She testified that he came back for a longer conversation that unnerved her. She said she never told Kingston she had a boyfriend or asked Gay to intercede.
Clay Bradley, Gay’s classmate at Charlotte School of Law, testified Friday that he noticed Wicker’s discomfort. He said he mentioned his concerns to Gay’s roommate, who then told Gay.
Gay laughed, Bradley said. Gay’s roommate, though, walked up between Wicker and Kingston and acted like her boyfriend until Kingston left. Bradley said he had seen Wicker being hit on in bars before but that Gay and Wicker trusted one another, and Gay was never jealous or worried about losing her to another guy.
Why wasn’t Gay worried about his loved one’s discomfort in those situations? Ashendorf asked. Did Bradley think it “weird” that Gay’s roommate had to act like Wicker’s boyfriend when her real boyfriend stood pat?
Bradley said he was a few feet away when Kingston, as he was leaving the bar, put his hands on Wicker and tried to kiss her. This time, Gay did react, grabbing the older man by the arm and shoulder and pushing him through the the bar’s open door, Bradley said.
In the seconds it took Bradley to follow his friend out of the bar, Kingston was already lying dead in Park Road. Bradley later told police that somebody yelled out, “Who did this?” Another person pointed at Gay and shouted, “He did, right there.”
“That’s when Kenan took off,” Bradley said.
By then, Wicker had joined him on the patio. He said she was trembling, confused, asking about Gay and what had happened in the street. Bradley said he tried to comfort her.
“Why couldn’t Kenan Gay comfort her?” Ashendorf asked.
“He wasn’t there,” Bradley said.