Jurors have reached a not-guilty verdict on the most serious charges against two men accused of murdering a coworker at an Unalaska fish plant in 2012. But, the jury couldn’t agree on every count.
On Monday afternoon, jurors found 36-year-old Leonardo Bongolto, Jr. and 42-year-old Denison Soria not guilty of two counts of second-degree murder each. One count included intent to cause serious injury, while the other was tied an extreme indifference to human life.
Bongolto, from Maple Valley, Wash., and Soria, from Unalaska, were accused of beating Jonathan Adams to death outside a Bering Fisheries bunkhouse in February 2012.
But the jury couldn’t decide if either man was guilty of assault, manslaughter or several other lesser charges. Judge Patricia Douglass declared a mistrial on those counts. That could set the stage for a brand new trial process starting later this year.
In all, the jury deliberated for about 11 hours after hearing more than a week of testimony – from an eyewitness, a bunkhouse neighbor and several police and medical officials involved with the case.
Attorneys showed the jury photos of Adams’ injuries and the bunkhouse deck where he was found the night of his death. The jury also listened to recordings of the eyewitnesses’ call to public safety, and first responders’ attempts to revive Adams at the scene using CPR.
Bongolto and Soria both declined to give their own testimony. They spoke and listened through Tagalog interpreters during the trial.
In closing arguments last Thursday, assistant district attorney James Fayette told the jury that the alleged fight was a result of Bongolto and Soria’s “preexisting aggression” toward Adams, and that it had directly caused Adams’ death.
But defense attorneys said Fayette hadn’t proven either of those things. They questioned the reliability of the states’ witnesses, and argued that neither man had set out to seriously injure Adams when the altercation began.
Jurors were asked to consider each man’s charges separately – and Soria’s attorney, Paul Maslakowski, argued in particular that his client was barely involved in the fight.
The eyewitness who testified called Leonardo Bongolto the “primary aggressor.” But Bongolto’s attorney, James Ferguson, called Adams’ death an accident resulting from horseplay.
Jurors reached their not-guilty verdicts on the murder charges around 5 p.m. on Monday. Before dismissing them from service, Judge Douglass thanked the jury for participating in what she said was an unusually difficult trial.
The state now has the option to pursue a retrial for any or all of the remaining charges in the case. Attorneys will decide how to proceed at a scheduling conference in November.