Not guilty pleas entered in 2006 Shaver Lake boat crash

Attorneys for two Southern Californians accused of fleeing in their boat after running over an 8-year-old boy on Shaver Lake during the 2006 Labor Day weekend entered not guilty pleas Thursday for the men.

Roger Isaac Guzman, 35, of Lake Elsinore and Thomas Christopher Kirby, 35, of Los Angeles were not in court.

Their attorneys indicated they plan a vigorous defense and say they hope to get some charges dropped at a planned December preliminary hearing.

Jeff Hammerschmidt, who is representing Guzman, said his client faces a boating under the influence charge. But Guzman was never given a breath or blood test to determine his blood-alcohol level, Hammerschmidt said.

Both men are charged with various state Harbors and Navigation Code violations, including leaving the scene of an accident and failing to render aid with an enhancement of causing great bodily injury.

Guzman, who allegedly was piloting the boat, also is charged with speeding.

Kirby is charged with helping Guzman evade arrest after the accident, which came during a crowded Saturday on Shaver Lake.

On that day, authorities say, Dallen McEntire was riding a kneeboard behind a personal watercraft that was being driven by his father when a yellow-and-white powerboat hit him.

The boy suffered major head injuries from the boat propeller and underwent several surgeries.

He is still in rehabilitation, prosecutor Dennis Cooper said Thursday.

"It's a miracle he's still alive," Cooper said.

Guzman and Kirby were not arrested until Aug. 22 of this year. Cooper said the arrests came after a methodical investigation, but added that the investigation would have moved quicker if the men had come forward.

Thursday's hearing before Fresno County Superior Court Judge Rosendo Peña featured some sharp exchanges between Cooper and Hammerschmidt and Roger Nuttall, who is representing Kirby.

Cooper had filed a motion to remove Nuttall from the case because his heavy caseload -- his clients include Larissa Schuster, whose murder trial is scheduled to start this month -- could push the case well into next year.

But Nuttall said others from his office are ready to pick up the case, so Peña denied the motion.

The lawyers then wrangled over when the preliminary hearing would be, and started to argue some facts of the case. Nuttall said the men didn't leave the scene and Hammerschmidt brought up the failure to administer sobriety tests.

It is unclear how much prison time the men could face if convicted, but it could possibly be more than five years for Guzman, Hammerschmidt said.

Cooper at one point noted that the two men are lucky that Dallen is still alive, or the charges would be much worse.

Peña stopped the debate and scheduled the preliminary hearing for Dec. 10. That hearing is expected to take three to five days.