LEESBURG, Ga. (WALB) – A Leesburg man accused of killing his neighbor in 2020 took the stand in his own defense on Thursday.
Matthew Hunter, 23, is charged in the April 2020 murder of Jeffrey Potter, 51. If convicted, Hunter could face a life sentence.
Hunter takes the stand:
During his testimony, Hunter claimed he was molested by Potter when he was younger.
Hunter testified his family was very close to Potter and that he went on trips alone with Potter, starting at 11-years-old.
He told the courtroom the two stayed in the same motel room in separate beds but claimed Potter got into his bed during the night and molested him.
Hunter testified he didn’t tell anyone out of fear.
“Mr. Potter told me, told me not to tell anyone,” Hunter testified. “He told me my parents (didn’t) want me anymore.”
Hunter said he continued to travel with Potter for two or three years after the first incident until his dad told him not to associate with Potter anymore.
The prosecution argued Hunter gave no evidence of this, drawing Hunter’s credibility into question.
According to Hunter, he next saw Potter in 2019 when he was 21-years-old and testified that Potter inappropriately touched him on the leg at a mechanic shop.
Hunter went on the say that was the last time he saw Potter until April 2020.
Hunter also testified about Potter coming over the night he was killed.
Potter was looking to collect $300 Hunter owed him. Potter put money on Hunter’s account while he was in jail. This was for calls, hygiene products and snacks.
After giving Potter the money, Hunter said Potter made comments accusing Hunter of sex acts with a man and then refused to leave.
After asking Potter nearly 30 times to leave, Hunter said he grabbed an unloaded rifle sitting on a tailgate to try to scare Potter away.
“He told me he knew I wouldn’t pull the trigger,” Hunter said. “I said, ‘you want to bet’ and he went for the gun.”
After fighting over the gun, Hunter said Potter lost his grip, sending the gun into Potter’s head.
After not seeing any blood, Hunter said he drug Potter back to Potter’s house when he started to get back up.
Hunter said Potter used an expletive to tell Hunter he’d made a mistake.
Not knowing Potter’s next move, Hunter said he kicked him in the face a few times when he went back down.
Hunter testified he called his brother, out of fear of Potter’s next steps. Hunter said he wasn’t aware of how bad Potter’s injuries were.
District Attorney Lewis lamb addressed the jury and argued the focus of this case is who did it.
He argued Hunter got embarrassed about sexual comments Potter made while Hunter was hanging out with a friend. Lamb argued Hunter needed to prove his toughness, leading to Potter’s injuries.
“Who did this? Who left this man face down in the dirt with a broken jaw bone, broken cheekbones and sinuses and eye orbitals and one, two, three fractures of the head? Two broken vertebrae in his neck? All the list laceration cuts,” Lamb argued.
G. Pete Donaldson, Hunter’s attorney, argued something different.
“What Mr. Lamb fails to understand or refuses to understand is that Matthew Hunter had no intention of causing any injury or killing or hurting Mr. Potter,” Donaldson said.
Donaldson argued this case is about shame, humiliation and fear.
Lamb argued, what did Matthew Hunter have to fear?
Donaldson used the analogy you see some guy you have a bad history with walk up on your property — when do you get fearful?
He argued Hunter asked Potter to leave his property repeatedly, but he never left. He argued Potter was not afraid, but Hunter was.
The jury will be charged Friday morning and begin deliberations.
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