After just a few hours of deliberation, a Boulder County jury on Wednesday acquitted a Boulder Community Hospital doctor accused of putting his arms around the heads of two hospital employees and grabbing them last summer.
Niles Utlaut was found not guilty of one count of third-degree assault and two counts of harassment by a six-person jury after a trial that lasted a little more than a day.
Two former Boulder Community Hospital employees — Lynn Donnelly and Diane Coles — testified in court this week that Utlaut put them in a "choke-hold" on June 3.
But Utlaut's attorney, Eric Klein, said in his opening statements to the jury that any contact was accidental and that the three simply got "jumbled up" while standing in a small doorway.
"This has been very stressful for Dr. Utlaut and we're glad it's finally over," Klein said after the verdict was read. "He feels very bad for any distress he caused Ms. Donnelly and Ms. Coles.
"We're glad the jury was able to see this for what really happened."
After the trial, several jurors said they agreed that any contact between Utlaut and the women was not intended to hurt them or intimidate them.
"These women may have been scared or startled, but I think that was never the intent of Dr. Utlaut," juror Tyler Casey said.
Juror Mike DiLorenzo said there were some differences in the testimony of the two women that made them question how serious the incident was.
While Donnelly testified Utlaut put them in a "choke-hold," Coles said Utlaut's arm did not allow her to move, but was never choking her or around her neck.
The two women were coming out of the medical records office at the time of the incident, and Utlaut said he was simply in a rush to try and have some paperwork taken care of in the office.
"His side of the story seemed believable," DiLorenzo. said "He did not intend to hurt them, he just got tangled up with them."
The jurors also said with no other witnesses to the incident, it was too much of a "he said, she said" case.
"Something uncomfortable happened, and there was a situation," said juror Laura Barkley. "But whether that was criminal..."
Added juror Karyn Spratt, "We couldn't really make that judgement with the evidence we had."
Utlaut is on the medical staff as an ophthalmologist, but is not an employee of the hospital. An internal investigation into the incident was conducted, but the findings of that probe have not been released.