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Jury to ponder homeless camp assault case
Defendant takes the stand, claims self-defense in fight with injured man
Attorney Dan Sammons addresses the jury Thursday afternoon in Hall County Superior Court during the trial of his client David William Keener. Keener is charged with aggravated battery and aggravated assault at a Gainesville homeless camp in August 2014.

Under the threat of a man going to “cheese grate (his) face on the asphalt,” David William Keener testified Thursday afternoon how he said he defended himself against a man allegedly intending to kill him.

Keener, 50, is charged with aggravated assault and aggravated battery. He is accused of kicking Steven Yearwood in the face with steel-toed boots, then sewing his injured ear.

After the prosecution rested Thursday morning, Keener and attorney Dan Sammons began their defense in Superior Court.

Sammons, making note of an “avalanche of evidence” in the district attorney’s case, explained to the jury the burden of proof for the state.

“Given the deficiencies in the investigation and the absence of what should have been serious injury ... you’ll have a reasonable doubt,” Sammons said.

Keener took the stand following Sammons’ statements, outlining the days before the alleged assault Aug. 4. Yearwood was not a regular resident of the homeless encampment but was friendly with others who lived there.

“Every day, there was an incident,” Keener said.

Those incidents included claims that Yearwood had stolen things from others and was urinating close to others in the tent city, Keener said. They escalated to the point Yearwood was going to be asked to leave, Keener said.

On Aug. 4, Keener testified he heard Yearwood enter the encampment through the creek and attempted to tackle him. Yearwood crashed into a fire barrel, which Keener attributes some of Yearwood’s injuries.

In previous filings seeking immunity, Keener claimed he never kicked Yearwood with steel-toed boots and only punched him twice.

After Yearwood was on the ground, Keener said he switched gears into lending a hand.

“When somebody’s hurt, that’s my job,” he said. “I need to take care of them.”

Keener testified he sewed four stitches on Yearwood’s ear which was “hanging like a dadgum puppy ear.”

“Fine job, too, if I say so myself,” Keener said.

As the trial neared the second full day around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, the attorneys began their closing arguments.

Sammons spoke first on the credibility of the witnesses in the homeless community who are often afflicted with issues of “alcohol, mental illness or a combination thereof.”

Keener’s attorney also said injuries allegedly inflicted by steel-toed boots would be more egregious.

Assistant District Attorney Juliet Aldridge reminded the jury of the medical testimony given about the severity of Yearwood’s injuries.

“Mr. Keener is the bully who waits for his chance to attack, takes it and then beats these guys up,” Aldridge said.

The jury will return this morning and deliberate after instructions by Superior Court Judge Andrew Fuller.

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