Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Saturday, March 10, 2012
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Local claims he was lone fighter

The state's first civilian witness took the stand Friday in Nicholas Ferro's murder trial and told jurors it was a bump of shoulders between a local and a tourist that led to a fight and the stabbing death of Marques Butler.

James "J.C." Edwards, 31, of Key West, had been with a group of friends at the former Big 'Uns sports bar on Duval Street on Oct. 31, 2009, from 10:30 p.m. or so to 4 a.m., he said. As they made their way up Caroline Street, Key West resident Patrick Stickney and Hollywood, Fla., resident Jorge Averoff bumped into each other, Edwards said. Words were exchanged, threats were made and that escalated into blows.

Edwards said he began to beat up Averoff, and the three other tourists ran away.

"Just you all by yourself?" Ferro's co-counsel, Ed O'Donnell Jr., asked Edwards loudly. "You single-handedly beat up Jorge Averoff and made the other three guys run away?"

Yes, Edwards testified.

That testimony flies in the face of the picture that defense attorneys O'Donnell Jr. and his namesake father have been painting of the death that occurred during Fantasy Fest. Since the state called its first witness, a police officer, on Wednesday, the state has been saying that Averoff was jumped by a group of Key West youths and that Ferro went to his friend's aid.

In the chaos, Ferro pulled a small pocketknife and held it in front of him as he tried to pull Averoff out of the mob, and Butler ran into it, O'Donnell Sr. told jurors in his opening statement.

Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorneys Miesha Shonta Darrough and Breezye Telfair are painting Ferro and his three friends as the aggressors in the brawl on Caroline Street between Simonton and Duval streets.

Edwards told jurors he thought Rolando Reyes -- known as the "man wearing a red shirt" according to much of the testimony thus far -- was the one who stabbed Butler in the melee, because Reyes ran away from the scene heading toward Duval Street, where police Lt. David Smith eventually detained him.

Edwards also testified that when he realized Butler had been stabbed, he left his side and angrily went to Duval and Caroline streets to fight Reyes, but was himself detained by police.

Officer Michael Chaustit also testified Friday, saying he arrived on the scene after Officer Eric Biskup called for backup. Chaustit said he found a small pocketknife in the bushes on Caroline Street, the same knife prosecutors allege Ferro used to stab Butler.

More witnesses to the fight are expected to testify Monday.

Ferro is charged with second-degree murder and resisting arrest without violence. He faces life in prison if convicted.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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