BY DAN HORN The Cincinnati Enquirer
Hakim Payton Kent was cleared of murder charges Thursday after a judge concluded he acted in self-defense when he shot a man outside Fast Freddie's Bar in Over-the-Rhine.
Mr. Kent, 21, of Pasadena, Calif.,could have faced a sentence of 20 years to life in prison if he had been convicted of the murder and assault charges.
Prosecutors said Mr. Kent, who worked at the bar at 1408 Walnut St.,chased Thomas Dukes Jr. and another man away from the bar Feb. 25 while shooting at them with a .38-caliber pistol.
Mr. Dukes, who lived in the neighborhood and was out for his 26th birthday, died from a bullet wound to the chest.
Judge Ann Marie Tracey of Hamilton County Common Pleas Court heard the case without a jury because defense attorney Kenneth Lawson opted for a bench trial. The judge said the evidence clearly supported Mr. Kent's argument he was defending himself from an aggressive and potentially dangerous man.
Earlier that night, she said, several witnesses watched as a "rowdy and drunk" Mr. Dukes was verbally abusive to Mr. Kent and others. She said some patrons even heard Mr. Dukes make threatening statements to Mr. Kent before he was thrown out.
During the trial, Mr. Lawson argued Mr. Dukes returned to the bar a short time later and tried to break through a back door. At some point, the bar's back door came open and gunshots were fired.
"Hakim had really done nothing to bring this on," Mr. Lawson said.
Prosecutors said the self-defense argument does not fit because they think Mr. Kent fired the shots outside the bar, not after a break-in. Assistant county prosecutor Judy Mullen said one shot struck Mr. Dukes in the back.
"At the very least, it was too much force," she said. "It was more force than necessary."
But Judge Tracey said Ohio law protects an individual's right to protect himself at his home or business.
"It is clear that under the circumstances, he was responding to what he perceived as a threat of death or great bodily harm," she said. "There is no evidence the defendant had any motive other than to protect himself or others."