Testimony began Wednesday in Unalaska in the trial of two men accused of beating a coworker to death outside a bunkhouse in 2012.
Leonardo Bongolto, Jr., 36, and Denison Soria, 42, are charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the death of 55-year-old Jonathan Adams in Feb. 2012.
The three men were seafood processors at Bering Fisheries at the time, living in bunkhouses on Gilman Road.
A 15-person jury heard opening arguments at Unalaska’s courthouse Wednesday morning. State prosecutor James Fayette argued that Bongolto and Soria woke Adams up to start a fight over “petty bunkhouse things.” Fayette said it turned into a “beating” that left Adams dead.
Fayette’s main witness also began her testimony Wednesday. Twenty-five-year-old Morgann Machalek called police about the fight back in Feb. 2012.
Machalek described Bongolto as the “primary aggressor.” She said she saw Bongolto knock Adams out with a punch on the steps of his bunkhouse, then kick him again once he was down.
Machalek said Adams was facedown on the stairs with his neck at an odd angle as she called police. Adams was pronounced dead at the local clinic a short time later.
Machalek was on the verge of tears for most of her testimony on Wednesday. It’ll continue Thursday — Fayette plans to have her show how the fight happened with live volunteers in the courtroom.
Defense attorneys, meanwhile, argued that the two men didn’t mean to cause Adams’ death, as the charges allege. Soria’s attorney, Paul Maslakowski, says Adams instigated what was a common fistfight between three men who’d been drinking.
Bongolto’s attorney, James Ferguson, called Adams’ death an accident.
“Getting in a fight where someone died and that’s not what you wanted — that’s an unfortunate tragedy,” Ferguson said in his opening statement.
The jury also heard testimony from the police dispatcher who answered Machalek’s call. They heard audio of that call, and saw pictures of Adams’ injuries and the bunkhouse where the fight took place.
Interpreters were on hand to translate the proceedings for Bongolto and Soria. The two men didn’t speak, but appeared slightly emotional as testimony wound down.
The jury will also hear from the medical examiner as the trial continues this week.