LARGO — Matthew Aime lost one of his best friends in a boating accident on the night of Nov. 17, 2005.
On Thursday, a jury decided the crash was Aime's fault, finding him guilty of boating under the influence manslaughter and reckless operation of a vessel.
Jurors took nearly three hours to determine Aime, of Tarpon Springs, was drunk when he ran his 14-foot aluminum boat into a dock on the Anclote River, killing 50-year-old Robin Raihan.
Raihan hit the dock with such force it broke his back and paralyzed him, prosecutors said. He fell into the river and drowned.
Aime, 26, and his former girlfriend Cassandra Stuttle were also injured in the crash. Aime's sister, Amanda, was also onboard but was not hurt.
Aime had a blood alcohol level of 0.16, twice the limit at which a person is presumed to be impaired, after the accident, prosecutors said.
"I feel like justice was served," said Assistant State Attorney Doneene Dresback.
Aime was ordered held until his sentencing, set for June 29. He faces 11 1/2 to 21 years in prison.
Aime's stepfather declined to comment.
In closing arguments, Matthew Aime's defense attorney said her client was an experienced boater who grew up on the Anclote River. "It was very unlikely he would hit a dock when he knows the river like the back of his hand," said Aime's attorney, Clementine Conde.
Dresback countered in her closing argument that experience had nothing to do with it, that Aime was simply too drunk to know where he was going.
Conde said it was impossible to know who was driving that night and insinuated it could have been Stuttle or even Raihan who was at the helm.
Stuttle said she thought Raihan was in the back of the boat with her and Aime when the accident happened.
But Amanda Aime said Raihan was at the front of the boat, which is why he took the brunt of the impact. She testified earlier this week that she was on her cell phone and had her back turned toward her brother and Stuttle, who were sitting at the back of the boat near the engine.
She said she was unsure who was in control of the boat on the last leg of the group's journey, which had started with a trip to Anclote Island to see the sunset.
After the accident, Amanda Aime pulled Raihan from the water and performed CPR, but she was unable to revive him. She then ran to the closest home, screaming for help.
The man who answered her cries testified he heard Amanda Aime tell police that her brother was driving the boat when it crashed.
Jurors found Aime not guilty on a felony charge of boating while intoxicated with serious bodily injury for wounds sustained by Stuttle, including a gash across her forehead that required hundreds of stitches. In court, Stuttle said she still suffers from short-term memory loss and a torn rotator cuff.
No family members of Raihan attended the three-day trial.
Rita Farlow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4157.