Accused killer of Marcus Kauffman takes the stand in deputy assault trial

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - Khari McClelland took the stand today in Salisbury to testify before a jury, but not in the case for which he is best known.

McClelland is charged with assaulting a Rowan County Sheriff's deputy during a disturbance in the jail on June 2.

McClelland is in jail awaiting trail and the possibility of the death penalty if he's convicted for the robbery and murder of volunteer firefighter Marcus Kauffman.

On Thursday, District Attorney Brandy Cook rested the state's case against McClelland.  McClelland's attorney, Darrin Jordan, called McClelland to the stand as the only witness for the defense.

During his testimony, McClelland said that June 2 had started like any other day for him in pod 1, cell 386 of the Rowan County Detention Center. He said that he had planned to leave the cell to go to the day room to prepare food, play cards, and use the phone.

At some point other inmates noticed that the door to the dayroom was locked and the inmates could not leave.  McClelland said that was unusual and that several inmates were upset about the door being locked.

McClelland said he, and others, knocked on the door, then pressed the intercom button to inform the control room that the door was locked.

Once the door was opened, McClelland, inmate Darius Smotherson and inmate Quentin Mathis went to the bathroom.  As they came out, the deputy ordered them to stand next to the wall so that he could talk to them.

McClelland testified that the deputy accused the inmates of being disrespectful, but that one of the other inmates argued that the deputies had been disrespectful to them.

The argument escalated, according to McClelland, and the deputy, wearing his handcuffs around his fist, threw a "jab" at McClelland, striking him in the face and then spraying him with pepper spray.

McClelland said that he did throw one punch and hit the deputy.

"I swung on him because I thought he was going to hit me again," McClelland told the jury.  After the punches were thrown, McClelland said both men fell to the ground.

"I lay flat, I knew it was the position I needed to be in so as to not be posing a threat," McClelland added.

Deputy Jamie Travis suffered a broken nose, cuts and a concussion in the incident.

Prosecutors described a more severe beating for the deputy, with Smotherson and Mathis joining in before the fight was broken up.

Once McClelland's testimony ended, his attorney asked for the charges to be dismissed.  The motion was denied by the judge.

On Friday morning court will resume with the attorneys giving closing arguments, the judge charging the jury, and then jury deliberations.

The jury has not heard testimony about the Marcus Kauffman case and they likely do not know that McClelland is one of the suspects in that case.

The other two defendants in the assault case will be tried later.

Smotherson is charged with murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Daniel Cooper, a Kannapolis high school student.

Mathis is charged with attempted murder after police say he tried to shoot two people in a Mooresville Dragway restroom back in 2011.