An 18-year-old Salt Lake City man has pleaded not guilty to a second-degree murder charge in the March beating death of a movie actress' son at a dance club.
John Leota entered the plea in an arraignment Friday before 3rd District Judge Homer F. Wilkinson, who set a trial date of July 3. Leota also pleaded not guilty to aggravated assault in another incident the same night.Leota is charged in the death of Malik Smith, son of actress Beverly Todd and television director Kris Keiser of Los Angeles.
Smith, 18, was punched in the face on March 18 at Studio 35, a non-alcoholic disco in West Valley City.
According to testimony at Leota's preliminary hearing, Smith was lifted six inches off the ground, fell backward and struck his head on the floor or wall.
Smith, in Utah on a skiing vacation, never regained consciousness and died two days later.
Defense attorney Phil Hansen said the judge earlier had deleted language in the murder charge alleging that Leota acted with "depraved indifference to human life," one of two elements on which prosecutors based the charge.
However, the judge left intact language referring to intent to commit bodily injury and disregard for human life, Hansen said.
The aggravated assault charge stemmed from an unrelated attack at the disco on Gregory Alexander, 26, who suffered a concussion.
Leota, who was accompanied by his parents and other family members, remains free on $200,000 property bond.
Wilkinson said trial would be recessed on July 4, then resume July 5.