Hazelwood Told to Clean Beaches; Will Appeal Sentence
ANCHORAGE — FORMER Exxon Valdez Capt. Joseph Hazelwood was sentenced Friday to help clean up Prince William Sound and pay $50,000 in restitution by a judge seeking to soothe outrage over the nation's worst oil spill. Superior Court Judge Karl Johnstone, in sentencing Hazelwood to 1,000 hours of community service by participating in the cleanup process, said he was disappointed that the fired skipper had not publicly apologized for his role in the disaster.
``I'm sure deep down he is very shameful,'' the judge said. Johnstone, however, acknowledged that Hazelwood had been advised by his lawyers to keep silent because of civil lawsuits he still faces.
Hazelwood's attorneys said they thought the sentence for a single misdemeanor conviction of negligence would be overturned on appeal, in part because the order to pay $50,000 in restitution to the state was illegal. The defense attorneys said Johnstone chose an arbitrary figure without measuring Hazelwood's ability to pay.
The judge also gave Hazelwood the maximum jail term of 90 days and fine of $1,000, but suspended both sentences.
``Imprisonment is not going to restore the environment,'' the judge said. ``But there is community outrage and something has to be done to provide condemnation and reaffirmation.''
Johnstone, who presided over Hazelwood's seven-week trial, said he felt the captain was wrong to drink before he boarded his ship and believed he violated at least some Coast Guard regulations in the grounding a year ago Saturday.
A 12-member jury found Hazelwood guilty Thursday of a charge of negligent discharge of oil into state waters. But he was acquitted of three other charges, including a felony, that he was reckless and drunk during the disaster that blackened the shoreline of Prince William Sound.
Had he been convicted of all four, Hazelwood could have received a maximum 7 1/4 years and a $61,000 fine. Hazelwood's lawyers said they would appeal the conviction as well as the sentence, and Johnstone said he would stay the sentence as soon as the appeal is filed.
One of Hazelwood's lawyers later accused the judge of ``Hazelwood bashing'' and said Johnstone's criticism of the skipper for drinking and being off the bridge of his ship improperly tried to override the jury's verdict.
``In light of the jury verdict this type of demagoguery should stop,'' said attorney Thomas Russo. Another Hazelwood attorney, Dick Madson, told reporters after the sentencing, ``The restitution is illegal, I think. The judge has no right to set an arbitrary figure like that.''
Madson said in mosts crimes a judge can assess a figure for restitution. But such an assessment always involves measuring the defendant's ability to pay and degree of responsibility, Madson said. Johnstone made no such inquiry and that would invalidate it, he said.