OGDEN — A 2nd District Court jury found Colton Raines and Robert Cole Boyer guilty Thursday night of misdemeanor charges in the death of Esther Fujimoto.
Fujimoto was struck by a powerboat driven by Raines on Aug. 21, 2011, while she swam in Pineview Reservoir.
The jury got the case at 6:30 p.m. and deliberated for about 90 minutes before returning with the verdict.
Only Boyer had a comment from the defense side after the verdict came in, saying he had talked to a member of the Fujimoto family, apologizing.
“I appreciate that we had the opportunity to tell our side of the story,” he said. “I hope this will give them some peace.”
Raines and Boyer, as well Skyler Shepherd, convicted in a separate trial in December, claimed they had no hint of the extent of Fujimoto’s injuries after what they called a near-miss.
All three testified they saw no injuries and that Fujimoto actually told them she was all right when they turned back to check on her.
Only Raines testified to hearing a scream.
Fujimoto was slashed by the boat’s propeller blade from the waist down, four bones cut, one leg nearly severed but for tissue holding it.
For the prosecution, the case came down to Fujimoto’s screams after she was injured. Vaughn Anderson said he heard three or more. The defendants heard one, or none.
For the defense, the key was that Fujimoto herself, as well as the defendants, may have been unaware of the severity of her injuries.
“The bottom line in this case is, what did these kids know when they pulled away from Esther,” defense attorney Greg Skordas said in closing arguments. “They saw nothing. All the injuries were below the surface of the water.
“This is an accident,” Skordas told the jury. “Like the State Medical Examiner said: Cause of death, accident.
“Bad things happen to good people. And not just Esther Fujimoto ... but bad things have happened to these boys. They’ll have to deal with what happened to her for the rest of their lives.
“The only way to make it worse is if you find these kids guilty of a crime they didn’t commit.”
Deputy Weber County Attorney Dean Saunders said in his closing arguments that “these guys can say all they want how they didn’t know she was hurt, she didn’t scream, whatever.
“But the best reliable evidence in this case is Vaughn Anderson. He is a hero to my mind. He hears her bloodcurdling screams and immediately goes to her aid.”
Anderson testified to hearing the screams from his patio 300 yards away from where Fujimoto was hit by Shepherd’s boat, driven by its co-owner Raines, in Pineview’s Spring Creek area.
Anderson ran to a knoll overlooking the scene and said he saw the three men in the boat asking Fujimoto several times, “Hey lady, are you OK?”
“That’s about the only part of their story I believe,” Saunders said, “because Vaughn Anderson corroborates it.”
Fujimoto was able to tread water for five minutes while Anderson paddled his small rowboat to her side. Holding her with one hand, he called 911 on his cell with the other.
The 911 tape of the call is horrific, Anderson alternately sobbing, yelling, pleading with Fujimoto, exasperated with the dispatcher.
Prosecutors say Fujimoto probably died during the call. The tape is so emotional the defense tried to keep it from the jury as being too prejudicial.
The defense Thursday afternoon put two paramedics on the stand who said the rush of adrenaline and endorphins, the body’s natural version of morphine, often leaves victims of traumatic injury unaware they are hurt.
“I’ve had people with a fractured leg try to walk on it,” said Jeff Jensen, paramedic with Mountain View Ambulance and a former Davis County sheriff’s deputy. “They fall down and get back up and try again.”
“There is a decreased level of consciousness,” said Andrew Maurer, a South Salt Lake fireman and paramedic. “It’s the body’s protective mechanism to keep you from flipping out.”
They said it’s possible Fujimoto could have told the defendants she was fine.
Raines and Boyer also took the stand to say, in their minds, they left Fujimoto unhurt. Raines said he still doesn’t believe he hit her, Boyer remaining unsure.
On Dec. 14, after three days of testimony and two hours of closing arguments, a jury needed barely 90 minutes to convict Shepherd on all charges.
He was found guilty of reckless endangerment and failure to render aid, both class A misdemeanors, and obstruction of justice, a class B misdemeanor.
Maximum sentence for a class A misdemeanor is a year in county jail; maximum sentence for a class B is six months.
On Jan. 23, Judge Ernie Jones, who also presided over the trial of Raines and Boyer, gave Shepherd the maximum on each charge and ordered them served consecutively.
Raines was convicted of the same charges as Shepherd, while Boyer was charged, and convicted of, only obstruction of justice.