Pineview boaters found guilty of charges in swimmer's death
Ogden •It took a jury just an hour and 40 minutes to hand down guilty verdicts to Colton Raines and Robert Cole Boyer for their role in a 2011 boating accident that killed a swimmer at Pineview Reservoir.
After three days of trial, the six-person jury began its deliberations about 6:30 p.m. Thursday, after both Raines, 23, and Boyer, 30, took the witness stand earlier in the day to say they didn't know their boat had hit Esther Fujimoto.
Raines and Boyer were found guilty of a class A misdemeanor count of obstructing justice. Raines also was found guilty of a class A misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment and a class B misdemeanor count of failure to render aid. They will be sentenced March 27.
Both claimed they knew they came close to the swimmer, but thought that she was OK, so they left.
"There was no impact," testified Raines, who was driving the boat at the time of the accident. "There was no collision. There was no way we ran anybody over."
Boyer and Raines said they were not concerned that their boat may have hit Fujimoto when they were stopped at the port ramp by law enforcement.
It wasn't until they read the newspaper the next morning that they thought it could have been them.
Boyer testified that the only conversation he had with Skyler Shepherd the boat owner who was convicted on the same charges as Raines at his December trial about the events on that August day was to tell his friend to park the boat and not to touch it in case they were the ones involved in the accident.
"For me, the boat was everything," Boyer said. "The boat was going to prove whether it was us who hit her or not â¦ I still, to this day, do not know."
The boat was examined by the state crime lab, and no forensic evidence was ever found.
After a jury convicted Shepherd of three misdemeanor charges in December, 2nd District Judge Ernie Jones sentenced the man to the maximum sentence of 2Â½ years in jail last month.
During this week's trial, all three men involved in the accident took the witness stand. At Shepherd's trial, he chose not to testify, but prosecutors subpoenaed him for Raines' and Boyer's trial.
For Fujimoto's family, it was the first time they had heard the three men describe the event in their own words.
"There was no remorse," brother Bryan Fujimoto said about the testimonies. "There was no recognition that there was any wrongdoing on their part, and that's what I find despicable and depraved."
Raines' attorney, Greg Skordas, said in his closing arguments that the three men were truthful on the stand, and asked the jury to deliver not-guilty verdicts because there wasn't evidence to prove that their boat had hit the woman and that they knew she was injured and left.
"Sometimes accidents happen," he said. "Sometimes horrible things happen to wonderful people â¦ The only way we can make this situation worse is finding them guilty for a crime they didn't commit."
Deputy Weber County Attorney Dean Saunders asked the jury in his closing arguments to use "common sense," and question whether the three men's accounts of the incident were truthful.
"Ask yourself, did they hear something," he said. "Did they feel something?"
Earlier Thursday, a woman who spent the day wakeboarding and boating at Pineview Reservoir with the trio said Raines and Boyer were intoxicated before their boat hit Fujimoto.
Sarah Taylor testified that by the time they finished boating that Sunday evening, the six people on their boat had consumed an entire bottle of whipped-cream flavored vodka. She said she saw both Boyer and Raines smoke marijuana that day in a pipe that looked similar to a cigarette.
"The marijuana two to three hits," she said about Boyer and Raines' consumption. "The alcohol quite a bit. They were intoxicated."
Raines testified that he smoked cigarettes on the boat not marijuana and Boyer said he never smoked marijuana or drank alcohol on the boat.
Much of the remaining testimony on Thursday centered around what the three men could have seen or felt from their boat when it struck Fujimoto, and if Fujimoto would have realized and communicated that she was hurt.
Dave Harris, who has worked as the Utah State Parks boating manager, testified Thursday that in his boating experience, the driver of the boat can generally feel in the steering wheel if they strike something with their boat or propeller.
"When you hit something, you can feel a difference," he said. "I believe definitely the operator of the vessel would have felt it in the steering wheel."
Defense attorneys Rebecca Skordas and Greg Skordas brought in two paramedics who testified that people with traumatic injuries often don't know the extent of their injuries because of shock or adrenaline.
"I would say, anything's possible," testified South Salt Lake Fire paramedic Andrew Maurer. "My first look at those pictures [of Fujimoto's injuries] is 'Wow â¦' You would know you were hurt, but to what extent to me, I don't want to know."
Chief Medical Examiner Todd Grey testified Tuesday that it was unlikely that Fujimoto would not have been aware that she was severely injured, or that she would have told the three men that she was OK.
"These injuries are deep," Grey said. "They are devastating. They would have been very painful."