OGDEN -- In a case that has dragged on since the day after Christmas, a jury has found a man justified in breaking out an AK-47 in his home when confronted with threatening, rock- and beer-throwing assailants.
One of the two men threatening Edward Doug Smith the night of Dec. 26 also urinated on his porch in the confrontation that began with the exchange of text message insults.
Paris Thornton and Robert Crozier were arrested after fleeing the scene when Smith was pushed to the point he fired two shots from his automatic rifle through his open front doorway, police say.
No one was hit, and the bullets ended up in Smith's front lawn.
The assailants had just ducked out of the doorway after forcing their way into Smith's Roy home several times after pounding on the door, screaming threats.
Thornton had thrown a full beer can at Smith, hitting him in the back. The pair had also been throwing rocks at the house and car.
"It's classic 'Castle Doctrine,' " said Smith's lawyer, Stephen Allred. "Your home is your castle. You have a right to defend it."
Smith's two children were in the home, and Crozier was accompanied by the 240-pound Thornton as "muscle" to confront the 140-pound Smith, who was seeing Crozier's ex-girlfriend, Allred explained to a 2nd District Court jury last week.
Thornton and Crozier were both charged within days with misdemeanors, plus a felony assault charge on Thornton for the beer can.
But in February, prosecutors found fault with Smith, charging him with use of a dangerous weapon in a fight, a class A misdemeanor.
The charge was punishable by up to a year in jail, which is what Thornton was sentenced to in July after a plea bargain.
Prosecutors argued to the jury that Smith "brought the gun out too soon," Allred said, before he was actually struck by the flying beer can.
Smith's prosecutors were not immediately available for comment.
Allred said he didn't get a chance to poll the jury after the Aug. 28 verdict before Judge Michael Lyon.
"But, ultimately, I think it made sense to them: An individual in their own home can have a rifle or a handgun out when someone, pounding on the door, is there to beat you, hurt you or potentially kill you," he said.
"That was our closing argument."
Another key for the jury may have been the testimony of Thornton.
He was not called to the stand by the prosecution, even though he was one of the victims along with Crozier.
Allred served him a subpoena in jail to testify for the defense. He had only expected Thornton's testimony would highlight possible discrepancies in Crozier's.
But Thornton unexpectedly backed Smith's use of the firearm as justified.
"One of the things that pushed the jury over the edge was, Paris said he would have done the same thing," Allred said. "He said he has children, too, and he would have done the same thing 10 times out of 10."
Allred said he was actually startled, unprepared for Thornton's statements.
"I just kept trying to keep a straight face, writing on my legal pad like I had expected him to say all that," he said.
Thornton currently has a drug charge pending in 2nd District Court. He was arrested in May by Ogden police for possession of crack cocaine. He has a long criminal record dating back 12 years.
Crozier was fined $930 in January on a misdemeanor evading charge for trying to flee police after the incident at Smith's home, his only charge from the Dec. 26 event.
He has a lesser criminal record dating back several years, according to court records.
When Thornton and Crozier were arrested, officials found Smith's ownership of the AK-47 was legal, with the required federal permits.
Allred said a plea bargain had been discussed on the charge of use of a dangerous weapon in a fight, "but my guy felt he couldn't take a deal, that he'd done the right thing."