Gregory Fulling was sentenced Monday to eight years and three days in prison for drunkenly crashing his rental car into an Anchorage police cruiser on the Glenn Highway in 2011, injuring both himself and officer Randy Hughes.
Fulling, wearing a yellow prison uniform, showed no emotion as Anchorage Superior Court Judge Jack Smith read the terms of his sentence at the Nesbett Courthouse. He will serve three days for a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence and eight years for a felony assault charge. He'll be up for parole in 64 months, Smith said.
Defense attorneys had asked for a lesser sentence, arguing that Fulling, of Marysville, Washington, was not a typical offender. The 52-year-old, retired from the military, came to Alaska to study beluga whales for the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority and completed a long-term alcoholism treatment program after the collision.
Smith had delayed the sentencing Friday, saying he needed the weekend to mull over the case. Ultimately, he said Monday, Fulling's sentence had to deter individuals from mixing alcohol and driving. Fulling had faced between seven and 11 years for the assault charge.
"Alaska has a significant problem with drunk drivers," Smith said. "It matters not whether we are talking about a high school dropout or a highly educated individual or an individual who is unemployed or employed; the risk that it costs the community and the message that's being sent is the same."
After court adjourned Monday, many of Hughes' friends, family and former co-workers present for the sentencing embraced. His teenage daughter cried.
"I'm just glad it's over," Hughes said.
Outside of the courtroom, Hughes recalled a particular moment during the trial. Hughes said that when he walked to the stand to testify, he made eye contact with Fulling. Before he spoke, Fulling began to cry.
"There's no true winner in this at all," Hughes said. "I know he's truly remorseful. We've been dealt a hand in life that we both have to deal with."
Their lives first intersected on Sept. 23, 2011.
Reading from court documents Monday, Smith said that Fulling told investigators that he began research work at 5:30 a.m. Sept. 22 and returned to the office by 3 p.m.
Fulling had "a couple of small shots of malt scotch" before attending dinner with a co-worker until 8:30 p.m., Smith said. Fulling dropped the co-worker off at the office.
He told investigators that he remembered paying the bill, drinking a glass of water and going to the bathroom. The next thing he remembered was being pulled from his vehicle, Smith said.
Court testimony filled in where Fulling's memory cut out. Prosecutors said Fulling drove a rental sedan north in the southbound lanes of the Glenn Highway for about 14 miles, forcing at least three drivers off the road.
Hughes was responding to reports of a wrong-way driver around 1:45 a.m. when Fulling's vehicle collided with Hughes' Chevrolet Impala police cruiser north of Hiland Drive. Hughes had veered his patrol car to the left to avoid a head-on crash but the impact on the passenger side still pushed Hughes' vehicle nearly 80 yards before it came to a rest in a ditch.
Both men were hospitalized. In the hospital, Fulling's blood-alcohol content tested at more than twice the legal limit. He suffered skull fractures. Hughes had a crushed hip and crushed foot. Since the crash, he has undergone multiple surgeries.
Smith said that when Hughes took the stand, he still walked with a "pronounced limp."
Hughes retired early from his job as a police officer and took a position as a lead security supervisor at Shell, he said.
After the sentencing, Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew said the trial was "fair."
"I think we're all satisfied," he said.
He said he hopes that highlighting the case will help the public remain aware of the city's struggle with drunken driving. About 10 years ago, Anchorage saw an average of 20 people die each year because of drunken drivers. By 2011, that number had decreased to one, he said.
"We've been trying to go for zero for '12, zero for '13 and it hasn't happened," Mew said. "In 2013, we had four of these fatalities. This year, we've had one. So we're having trouble making that zero. What we want to do is get to a place where nobody gets killed by a drunk driver in this town."
Fulling is being held at the Goose Creek Correctional Center. He will be eligible for release on Jan. 22, 2019.
Reach Tegan Hanlon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4589.
By TEGAN HANLON