Steven Hayashi enters the Bray Courthouse in Martinez, where he was on trial for the 2010 fatal dog mauling of his 2-year-old grandson Jacob Bisbee, in
Steven Hayashi enters the Bray Courthouse in Martinez, where he was on trial for the 2010 fatal dog mauling of his 2-year-old grandson Jacob Bisbee, in Martinez, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)

A judge Friday afternoon found a Concord grandfather guilty of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment in the fatal 2010 mauling of his toddler grandson by three pit bulls -- dogs a prosecutor said their owner knew to be vicious.

In a rare legal procedure, Contra Costa Superior Court Judge John Kennedy decided 55-year-old Steven Hayashi's verdict, after Hayashi waived his right to a jury trial. Hayashi faces up to 10 years in prison.

On July 22, 2010, Hayashi's 2-year-old step-grandson, Jacob Bisbee, walked into an unlocked garage after leaving him unsupervised with his 4-year-old brother and sleeping wife. The three pit bulls mauled the boy, who bled to death.

Steven Hayashi speaks to a reporter at the Contra Costa County Jail in Martinez, Calif. during an interview  Friday, July 23, 2010. (Dan
Steven Hayashi speaks to a reporter at the Contra Costa County Jail in Martinez, Calif. during an interview Friday, July 23, 2010. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Staff)

At issue was whether Hayashi should have foreseen the attack, with prosecutors saying Hayashi knew the dogs had killed two family pets and showed aggression toward Jacob. Hayashi's defense attorney argued that his client believed Jacob and his brother were left with an awake adult -- Hayashi's wife -- and that the dogs had never attacked a person before, only animals.

Hayashi, who has been out on bail, fidgeted in his seat and rubbed his hands through his hair as the judge walked through his deliberations Friday. Hayashi declined to comment outside court after the verdict, as he talked with a handful of family members who attended the hearing.


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In explaining his decision, Kennedy said Hayashi did not check to see whether Jacob's father had left for work or whether the toddler's door was open, didn't confirm whether the children or his wife were awake and didn't lock the garage door before he left to play tennis.

Hayashi was told numerous times by his wife and other relatives to get rid of the dogs because they feared how they would react to the children, Kennedy said.

"But as he told his wife, the dogs were his, and the children were his step-grandchildren, and they should leave before the dogs," prosecutor Mary Knox told the judge in her opening statement.

On the day of the mauling, Hayashi's wife made the grisly discovery about 8:45 a.m. and called 9-1-1. The dispatcher could hear the dogs barking furiously in the background, Kennedy said.

"The likelihood one of the toddlers would get hurt by the dogs was high," Kennedy said.

Knox argued that Hayashi had plenty of advance warning about the danger he was placing the young boys in and said after court that Jacob's death was "a completely avoidable tragedy."

"It was completely preventable with the simplest child safety standards applied in the household," Knox said in the elevator outside court. "It was a very difficult subject, and there was not a witness who testified who was not moved to tears."

Hayashi's attorney, David Cohen, argued that the dogs had never hurt a person before the attack on Jacob, only animals.

"It's a tragedy all around ... It's a tragedy that a young boy everybody loved died," Cohen said outside the courtroom.

Cohen said he hopes to keep Hayashi out on bail while they appeal the case. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 13.

"Hopefully, they conclude no additional jail time is necessary, with everything that Mr. Hayashi and his family went through," Cohen said.

Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.