District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Vernice S.
Trease No. 131909921
Nathalie S. Skibine, Attorney for Appellant
D. Reyes, Jennifer Paisner Williams, and John J. Nielsen,
Attorneys for Appellee
Diana Hagen authored this Opinion, in which Judges Michele M.
Christiansen and David N. Mortensen concurred.
A motorcyclist and his eleven-year-old daughter were riding
along Wasatch Boulevard in Salt Lake City when they became
embroiled in a road rage incident with another driver, Casey
Farnworth. The altercation ended when the motorcyclist and
his daughter were thrown from the motorcycle, and Farnworth
sped off toward the interstate. Fearing that Farnworth would
get away, and despite his attempts to outmaneuver them, two
couples independently followed Farnworth and called 911 with
his license plate number.
Farnworth was subsequently charged with aggravated assault,
child abuse, failure to remain at an accident involving
injury, and reckless driving. At trial, over Farnworth's
objection, the court admitted the audio recording of a 911
call made by a nontestifying witness, who had pursued
Farnworth after the accident. Additionally, the court
instructed the jury on the State's alternative theories
of reckless driving to which Farnworth's counsel did not
The jury convicted Farnworth of aggravated assault, reckless
driving, and failure to remain at an accident involving
injury but acquitted him of child abuse. We affirm
A motorcyclist and his eleven-year old daughter were
traveling along Wasatch Boulevard when an SUV-driven by
Farnworth-merged into the motorcyclist's lane, forcing
the motorcycle into the left-hand turn lane. As both vehicles
came to a red light, the motorcyclist pulled up to the
driver's side of Farnworth's vehicle and gestured
with his arm as if to say "what the heck, what's
going on?" and to show Farnworth that they were there.
In response, Farnworth stuck his hand out the window, flipped
off the motorcyclist, and screamed, "I'm going to
f'ing kill you."
When the light turned green both vehicles sped off, and
Farnworth began swerving into the motorcycle apparently
attempting to push it into oncoming traffic. The motorcyclist
tried to avoid colliding with Farnworth's
SUV, but after the third swerve,
"either the motorcyclist's tire made contact with
the back bumper or he just went down." The motorcyclist
and his daughter were both thrown from the motorcycle, and
Farnworth continued on, running a red light to accelerate
onto the interstate.
Farnworth was subsequently charged with aggravated assault
resulting in serious bodily injury, a second degree felony,
see Utah Code Ann. § 76-5-103(2)(b) (LexisNexis
2012); child abuse, a second degree felony,
see id. § 76-5-109(2)(a) (Supp. 2017); failure
to remain at an accident involving injury, a class A
misdemeanor, see id. § 41-6a-401.3 (2014); and
reckless driving, a class B misdemeanor, see id.
The State called several witnesses to testify, including
three disinterested eyewitnesses (First Witness, Second
Witness, and Third Witness) and a police officer.
On the day of the accident, First Witness was driving
northbound in the right lane of Wasatch Boulevard when she
noticed a motorcycle with two riders driving alongside her in
the left lane. First Witness testified that, as traffic
slowed, she saw an SUV weaving in and out of the two lanes,
eventually "pushing [the] motorcyclist out towards the
median." When the SUV merged back into the right lane,
First Witness saw the motorcyclist "raise his hand a
little bit" as if to gesture "what the heck."
Farnworth responded by "flipping [the motorcyclist] off,
" yelling out the window, and swerving "towards
where the motorcyclist was three times." First Witness
testified that it looked like the motorcyclist was driving in
the median to avoid contact. But after Farnworth swerved
toward the motorcyclist a third time, the motorcycle crashed.
Because First Witness was in the right lane, she was unable
to see whether the motorcycle's front tire made contact
with Farnworth's rear bumper or if the motorcycle just
went down. After First Witness pulled over to aid the
motorcyclist and his daughter, she noticed that Farnworth had
Second Witness and Third Witness, a married couple, were
driving along Wasatch Boulevard together when Second Witness
looked in his rear view mirror and noticed Farnworth driving
erratically-"going up towards the car in front,
switching lanes . . . working his way up to the front."
According to Second Witness, while Farnworth was changing
lanes, he nearly hit the motorcycle, forcing it into the left
turn lane. Then, when both vehicles reached a stoplight, the
motorcyclist drove up to the driver's side of the SUV and
appeared to confront Farnworth. Although Second Witness could
not hear what the motorcyclist and Farnworth were saying, he
testified that "it looked like they were going back and
forth." When the light turned green, both vehicles sped
off, and Farnworth veered at the motorcycle three times,
"pushing them further and further into oncoming
traffic." The motorcyclist tried to get out of the way,
but eventually he was forced to lay the motorcycle down.
Second Witness was also driving in the right lane, so he was
unable to see whether the SUV hit the motorcycle.
Third Witness did not see the initial altercation between
Farnworth and the motorcyclist, but her husband, Second
Witness, drew her attention to the vehicles after they sped
off through the green light. Third Witness testified that at
that point, "the SUV was trying to swerve and either
sideswipe the motorcycle or just push it into oncoming
traffic." According to Third Witness, the motorcyclist
tried braking to get out of the way, but there were also cars
behind the motorcycle. After the SUV swerved "four or
five" times, the motorcyclist was forced to "lay
down" the bike, and he and his daughter were thrown into
the center turn lane. Third Witness was also uncertain
whether the vehicles made contact.
When the motorcycle went down, Second Witness and Third
Witness noticed that the SUV had run a red light and
continued driving away from the scene of the accident.
Because they did not want Farnworth to get away, they pursued
him onto the interstate so they could write down the
SUV's license plate number and report it to police. Both
witnesses testified that Farnworth was speeding, but Second
Witness specified that Farnworth was driving on the
interstate in "excess of 90 to 100 miles an hour."
The couple also followed Farnworth off of the interstate and
into a neighborhood where Farnworth drove between 45 and 60
miles per hour and ran two stop signs.
Over Farnworth's objection, the State also introduced a
911 call made by an occupant in another vehicle that had
followed Farnworth to obtain his license plate number. On the
recording, the caller explained to dispatch that she had
witnessed Farnworth flip off the motorcyclist and his
daughter, impact with them, force them off the road, and
continue driving. She also indicated that she had observed
damage to the SUV's left rear bumper where the SUV had
impacted with the motorcycle.
Dispatch notified a police officer of the accident and
provided him with the SUV's license plate number, which
the officer determined was registered to Farnworth. That
night, the officer went to Farnworth's residence and
noticed an SUV backed into the carport. The officer verified
the license plate number, inspected the SUV, and saw that it
had several dents and scratches on the driver's side rear
bumper. The officer testified that the paint appeared to be
freshly damaged because it was still flaking. He also
observed what appeared to be a tire mark underneath the same
side of the SUV, which according to the officer, was low
enough to be consistent with a motorcycle collision.
The officer then spoke with Farnworth, who admitted both that
he was driving the SUV during the altercation and that he had
seen the motorcycle crash. But when questioned further,
Farnworth told the officer that "he did not feel the
motorcycle crash into his vehicle at any point and [he] did
not believe the motorcycle had hit his vehicle."
Farnworth called two witnesses to testify: his wife and
another motorist (Defense Witness) who had been driving in
the left lane directly behind Farnworth and the motorcyclist.
On direct examination, Farnworth's wife, who was a
passenger in the SUV, admitted that she "did not see too
much of anything" because she had "made it a point
to try not [to] make eye contact or be engaging."
Nevertheless, she testified that, as they came to a
stoplight, she saw through her peripheral vision that the
motorcyclist drove into the left turn lane and twice flipped
off her husband. She further testified that Farnworth yelled,
"Get the hell away from me. What the hell are you
doing?" and gave the motorcyclist "the bird."
When the light turned green, the motorcyclist continued
straight, driving close enough to Farnworth's SUV that
his wife was nervous the motorcyclist would damage the
SUV's side mirror. According to his wife, Farnworth tried
speeding up and then slowing down to let the motorcycle pass,
but the motorcyclist "mimicked [his] every move."
On at least one occasion, she noticed that their SUV began to
drift out of their lane, and she testified that she brought
it to Farnworth's attention so he could immediately
correct himself. In what Farnworth's wife characterized
as a final attempt to evade the situation, Farnworth drove
through a light as it was changing. His wife testified that,
at that point, Farnworth looked in his rearview mirror and
saw the motorcyclist and his daughter standing in the middle
of the road, but Farnworth told his wife that he was unsure
whether the motorcyclist had intentionally laid his bike
down. Farnworth's wife personally did not believe they
were responsible for the accident, because she did not see,
feel, or hear any impact. And she testified that the damage
on the SUV's rear bumper was a preexisting dent that had
been poorly repaired with auto body tape and Bondo.
Defense Witness testified that on the day of the accident,
she had been stopped at a red light in the left lane of
Wasatch Boulevard when she saw a motorcycle drive past her in
the left turn lane and stop alongside the SUV where it then
appeared "[t]here was some kind of road rage."
Although Defense Witness could not hear what Farnworth and
the motorcyclist were saying, she testified that their
gestures indicated that they were involved in an altercation.
According to Defense Witness, when the light turned green,
both vehicles sped off, and she noticed that the motorcyclist
went straight even though he was in the turning lane. At that
point, both vehicles began "swerving towards each other,
in and out" before they eventually collided. Defense
Witness acknowledged that she had provided a written
statement to the police immediately after the accident,
stating that "the driver [of the SUV] kept swerving
toward the motorcycle" and "[o]n the third swerve
the driver hit the motorcycle." Defense Witness
testified that her written statement was accurate and that
"those statements are still true."
At the close of the evidence, the court instructed the jury
that Farnworth could be convicted of reckless driving if the
State proved either that he acted in a willful or wanton
disregard for the safety of persons or property or that he
committed three or more traffic violations within three
miles. Farnworth's attorney did not object to submitting
these alternative theories to the jury.
The jury deliberated for eleven hours during which time the
jurors submitted multiple questions to the trial court,
indicating on at least one occasion that they may be unable
to reach a unanimous verdict. During deliberation, the jury
also requested the audio recording of the 911 call, which
remained in the jury room for approximately forty-five
minutes. Ultimately, Farnworth was convicted of aggravated
assault, failure to ...