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DANCE CLUB INCIDENT TERMED AN ACCIDENT

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The evening started quite innocently at the West Valley dance club, a prosecutor told an eight-member jury Monday.

Before it was over, though, two young men were punched in the face. One of them - the son of a Hollywood movie star - died two days later.John Tavo Leota, 19, is charged with second-degree murder in the March 18 death of Malik Smith, 18, and aggravated assault on another man.

"This is not a `whodunit,' " deputy Salt Lake County attorney Kent Morgan told the jurors. "Your job is to determine the intent of the defendant."

But defense attorney Phil Hansen said Leota never intended to cause serious bodily injury to anyone.

"Young John is not a murderer," Hansen said. "One simple heated argument over a dance and they (prosecutors) call it murder. Nonsense. It was an accident."

Hansen said Leota, who will take the stand in his own defense, went to Club 35 in West Valley City the night of March 18 to dance and "have a good time."

At one point during the night, the dance floor cleared and Smith - the son of actress Beverly Todd - performed alone "to show others that he was the best dancer," Hansen said.

"He was cocky and arrogant and was egg-ing other people on." He challenged Leota to a dance contest, but Leota refused.

"That ticked off young John . . . He was embarrassed because everyone was booing him."

A short time later, Smith went into a video room and Leota followed, his two friends blocking the exit, Morgan said. Leota started pushing Smith, who tried to retreat but was "blind-sided right in the face."

Smith fell to the floor, striking his head. He died two days later of injuries to the brain.

"Maybe it was not good judgment (for Leota) to end up hitting someone but he had no intent (to kill)," Hansen said.

Leota also is accused of striking an Ogden youth following the assault on Smith.

The trial, being heard before 3rd District Judge Homer Wilkinson, is expected to last through Thursday.