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For the week of March 6 - 12, 2002


Jury convicts Boise man in bar fight

Victim beaten into coma

Express Staff Writer

A Blaine County jury on Friday convicted a 28-year-old Boise man in the brutal beating of an intoxicated patron outside the Casino bar in Ketchum last July.

George L. Furlott was convicted of felony aggravated battery at the conclusion of a four-day trial in 5th District Court in Hailey. He has not been sentenced, but faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

The beating administered to Kenneth Nye, who now lives in Florida, was the most savage of an unusually high number of bar fights that occurred last summer. Witnesses testified that the 270-pound Furlott attacked Nye, who weighs 150 pounds, by breaking a beer bottle against his head, knocking him to the pavement, then grabbing him by the shirt while administering half a dozen punches to his face and head. Nye’s head, one witness said, was bouncing off the concrete "like dribbling a basketball."

Furlott and two friends fled the scene, leaving Nye lying in a two-foot-wide pool of blood.

"It was extremely brutal," said Jason Howell, who was crossing Main Street when the incident occurred. "He was in horrible shape. We thought at first that he might be dead."

Nye was flown by helicopter in critical condition to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise. Neurologist Dr. Richard Hammond told jurors that Nye "had almost a 50 percent chance of being dead or of being in a (permanent) coma." Nye was revived from a coma and released in three days.

Taking the stand Thursday, Furlott admitted to jurors that he had punched Nye, but said he did so only to defend his friend, Justin West, 31, whom, he said, Nye had just hit on the side of the head. Furlott denied having hit Nye with a bottle or of having hit him while he was down.

Furlott was living in Ketchum last summer while working for West, also a Boise resident, doing a remodel at the former Moritz Community Hospital building in Sun Valley. Both sides in the trial agreed that West was a main instigator of the violent events that occurred during the early morning hours of July 17.

The trouble started about half an hour before closing time when Nye, intoxicated, bumped into West while he was standing at a urinal in the Casino’s men’s room. Another patron, Jason Friedt, testified that West reacted angrily and took a swing at Nye, hitting him in the mouth with his elbow.

The bar’s head bouncer, Weylin Bibb-Barrett, testified that the incident turned into a shoving match in the hallway outside the men’s room. He said he concluded that West, Furlott and a third member of their group, Donny Wilcox, were the aggressors in that altercation, and ordered them to leave the bar. He said West put up an argument, and it took him five or six minutes to get the men out.

Bibb-Barrett said he saw the three a few minutes later at the Casino’s back door, and ordered them out again. He then called for a taxi to come and drive Nye home.

Bibb-Barrett said Nye spent the next few minutes sitting in a chair near the door drinking a glass of water, "very confused" and dropping in and out of consciousness.

The taxi arrived shortly after closing time at 2 a.m. Alex Dean, who was sitting in the cab’s front passenger seat, testified that he saw three men walk behind the cab from across the street carrying bottles. Dean said he then heard a bottle breaking, turned and saw the bottle "explode on the guy’s head" next to the passenger window.

Bibb-Barrett testified that he walked outside after hearing the commotion, saw Nye lying on the ground, and got some rags to mop up the blood on his head. While he was doing so, he said, he heard West say to several people who had gathered around, "We f… this guy up. Do you want us to f… you up?"

By that time, however, Nye was incapable of getting up. Witnesses testified that his eyes were rolled back in his head and he was unresponsive.

Police arrested West and Wilcox shortly after about two blocks away. Wilcox admitted in court to having given police false information when questioned as to whether they knew the identity of the man who had hit Nye.

Furlott turned himself in the next day after being informed that police wanted to talk to him.

The men related a very different story than that told by the prosecution’s seven eyewitnesses, telling jurors that they had congregated across the street not to plan an attack against Nye, but simply to drink beer at Wilcox’s truck, parked in front of the Ore House.

Wilcox said that when West saw Nye walk out the Casino’s door, he crossed the street and began verbally "challenging" Nye and his friend, Jacob Meyers. Wilcox said Nye then stepped to the side of West and punched him in the head while he wasn’t looking. When asked by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Marilyn Paul which side of the head, Wilcox said, "I believe it was the left side," then corrected himself and said the right side.

Furlott testified that he crossed the street behind West, and jumped into the fray when he saw Nye hit him.

"It was a reaction because he had hit one of my good friends on the side of the face," Furlott said in response to questions from his attorney, Cheri Hicks.

He said he hit Nye four times until Nye fell to the sidewalk.

Asked if he was afraid, Furlott said, "I was very afraid. I may be a big guy but I don’t like to fight."

In her closing statement, Paul ridiculed that remark, pointing to Furlott’s own description of his actions toward Nye as "thumping" him. She characterized Furlott’s, West’s and Wilcox’s testimony as replete with lies.

Hicks, however, told jurors that the two sides’ contradictory versions of events were probably not the result of deliberate lies, but simply different perceptions of what had occurred.

"It’s 2 o’clock in the morning. Everybody’s either tired or intoxicated. This case is not as clear as Ms. Paul would like you to believe."

Jurors took five hours of deliberation to return with a guilty verdict at 7 p.m. Friday. One of the jurors, who asked that his name not be printed, said in an interview after the verdict that he did not feel the prosecution to have disproved Furlott’s contention that he had been defending a friend. However, he said the prosecution’s witnesses did convince him that Furlott’s punching went beyond that needed to eliminate any remaining threat.

Furlott is scheduled to be sentenced April 29. He is currently released on bail, living in Boise with his wife and three children.

West was initially charged with aiding and abetting an aggravated battery, but that charge was dismissed in September when Magistrate Judge Mark Ingram concluded during a preliminary hearing that the state had not presented enough evidence to support it.


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