Jury to weigh whether strip-club manager guilty of murder

Posted: October 25, 2012

A PHILADELPHIA JURY Wednesday morning was set to begin its first full day deliberating the fate of John Pettit, the strip-club manager accused of throwing the punch that led to the death of a club patron in 2009.

Defense attorney Robert Lynch told the jury in his closing argument Tuesday that Pettit had thrown the punch in self-defense, but Assistant District Attorney Mark Levenberg countered that it was one in a series of sucker punches delivered by Pettit and his bouncers, whom he labeled "goons."

Pettit, 51 - who wore a black muscle shirt and short pants the day he was recorded on club surveillance video fighting with James Koons in front of the Oasis strip club - donned a blue suit Tuesday and appeared somber as he stood to say he wouldn't testify.

Koons, 31, a father of two from Delaware County, suffered two skull fractures on Oct. 16, 2009, in front of the club, on Essington Avenue near 70th Street in Southwest Philly.

The first fracture likely occurred when Koons was struck by an object that caused his brain to shift backward, and the second fracture to the back of the skull occurred when Koons fell and hit his head on the ground, Chief Medical Examiner Sam Gulino testified.

Koons never awoke from a coma and died two weeks later after his family discontinued life support.

Pettit is charged with third-degree murder and related counts in Koons' death, and with aggravated assault and related counts in the beating of Koons' friend, George Foreacre, 38.

Three bouncers from the club were found not guilty of assaulting Foreacre during a one-day, nonjury trial last week.

Defense attorney Lynch asked the jury to consider the events that led to his client striking Koons. Despite being warned by bar staff, he said, Koons and Foreacre were drinking and being loud before they were physically ejected.

Once outside, the two men shouted threats, begged the bouncers to come out and fight and hurled racial slurs at a black bouncer, Lynch said.

"The men outside were carrying on and making threats. That's reality," said Lynch. His client had no intention of killing Koons and threw one punch only after Koons - who was three times over the legal intoxication limit - began to attack a bouncer, Lynch said.

Levenberg said the motive for Koons and Foreacre's being ejected and beaten in the parking lot stemmed from bad blood between Koons and the girlfriend of Oasis owner Robert Laflar.

The girlfriend, who worked at the club, was friends with Koons' ex-girlfriend, the mother of his two children, Levenberg explained.

Laflar, 46, was charged with third-degree murder but died of a drug overdose in January.

Contact Mensah M. Dean at deanm@phillynews.com or 215-568-8278. Follow him on Twitter @MensahDean.

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