Facebook Twitter

Nightclub shooting case goes to trial

Man charged with killing man outside concert in 2002

SHARE Nightclub shooting case goes to trial

In 2002, Tony Fuailemaa was fatally shot in the head and neck outside a downtown Salt Lake City nightclub where he had attended a hip-hop concert with a friend.

Now the case of the man charged in the killing, Deon Lomax Clopten, 30, is before a five-woman, four-man jury for a trial in 3rd District Court that is expected to last through next week.

Clopten is charged with first-degree felony murder; obstruction of justice and possession of a dangerous weapon, both second-degree felonies; and failing to stop for police, a third-degree felony.

During opening arguments Wednesday, prosecutor Fred Burmester said Fuailemaa and a female friend noticed Clopten and some other men outside Club X-Scape, 115 S. West Temple. When the couple left the concert to avoid heavy traffic, they noticed men peeking out at them from around other buildings and Fuailemaa told his friend, "I think there's going to be trouble," Burmester said.

Fuailemaa had his back to the men "when suddenly a man dressed all in red came out holding a gun. He held it to the back of Tony's head and fired three rounds," Burmester said.

What none of these people knew was that four undercover police officers were also in the club that night. They emerged, saw Fuailemaa on the ground and his friend hysterically screaming, and ran after the man in red, who eventually got into a white car and led them on a chase reaching speeds of 100 mph before being stopped.

Shortly afterward that night, the woman identified Clopten for police: "That's the guy who shot Tony — the guy dressed all in red."

But defense attorney Jeremy Delicino urged the jury not to forget the concepts of the presumption of innocence and the state's burden to prove Clopten did anything wrong. "Tell yourselves, 'I've made up my mind (Clopten is innocent) and the state has to change my mind,' " he said.

Delicino asked jurors to "separate the believable from the unbelievable" when listening to the evidence and witnesses, to note contradictions and listen closely to what goes unsaid as well as what is said.

The victim's friend made a statement to police two days after Fuailemaa was killed saying she didn't remember seeing Clopten at the club and her view of the shooter was obstructed by Fuailemaa, who was 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighed about 300 pounds.

"Do you believe her statement two days later or what she says now three years later?" Delicino said.

Another witness who was in a nearby hotel and didn't know any of the people involved will testify he saw a man wearing a red jacket get into the passenger side of the car, not the driver's side, which prosecutors allege. "He has no reason, no incentive, no motive to present false testimony," Delicino said.

E-mail: lindat@desnews.com