by Matt Rosenberg May 9th, 2013
When Garrett A. Bakken last July was charged with the felony DUI offense of vehicular assault after veering off Lake Washington Boulevard in Renton, Wash. and slamming into a pedestrian on a pathway, the story garnered coverage from local television and online news outlets and even made the New York Daily News. According to court files, Bakken’s blood alcohol level was nearly two-and-a-half-times the legal limit, and he initially drove away after the impact. At first, the victim’s identity was unknown. Last week on Friday May 3 to no fanfare Bakken, following an earlier plea agreement, was issued by King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas a “standard range” sentence on the charge for a first-time felony offender: six months work release. Starting later this month the Renton man, 28, will go each weekday to work but spend nights and weekends in county custody until nearly Thanksgiving. For the victim, however, life is nowhere near its “standard range” prior to the accident.
Rosalind M. Hall, of Renton, 54, left lipstick prints and spider-web patterned impact marks on the windshield of Bakken’s 2003 Hyundai Sante Fe just before she was launched by the impact 30 feet away and down a ravine into blackberry bushes. Her body was recovered by a passer-by who notified police. Carrying no ID on a regular walk for exercise, she was later identified on TV by a relative.
12 surgeries and another one likely
Her first memory is waking up in intensive care six days after the accident. She spent weeks more in rehab recovering from two broken arms, two broken legs, and shattered wrists. At the outset she also had serious arterial bleeding near her spine. She says she has had 12 surgeries, and another one looming for a hip hernia stemming from the mishap. She has a dropped left foot and can’t walk without a special insert in her shoe. A mortgage underwriter for 20 years, most recently for EverBank, she says she has not worked since and is not sure if she will again because sitting and writing for hours at a time is too painful for her now.
Aftermath “totally devastating”
Of the sentence given to Bakken she says that six months of work release “is a little better” than no time served at all, but “not a whole lot better.” She added, “At least there is some kind of penance.” It may be rational that sentences for first-time felony DUIs tend to be considerably less than for repeat offenders, says Hall, but nonetheless the accident’s aftermath for her – including the 12 surgeries, the pain, and the loss of work – has been ‘”totally devastating. I was a normal, healthy person, and one morning I get up to go for my normal walk as I’d done for 10 years, and my whole life was changed.” Hall’s personal injury attorney Susan Cohodes of the Seattle firm Dean Standish Perkins and Associates confirmed a civil action was being filed against Bakken today.
At the time of the accident the morning of July 7 Bakken was returning to his Renton apartment from a friend’s residence where he had been drinking, according to police and an interview with him by Public Data Ferret. He initially fled the scene but returned within five minutes, according to court documents. An open, half empty bottle of Bowmore Islay Single Malt Scotch Whiskey tumbled out of the car when police opened the passenger-side door.
Police noted Bakken was ‘”fumbling, confused, uncoordinated, had an odor of alcohol and slurred speech.” He told police he must have fallen asleep, according to court records, and added, “Last thing I would have expected is to hit someone.” Records also note a “legal blood draw” was done and state crime lab results showed a blood alcohol level of .18, almost two-and-half times the legal limit.
“Standard range” vehicular assault sentence for first-time felon
Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for King County prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, said Bakken’s vehicular assault sentence was well within the standard range for a first-time felony offender, of three to nine months, and by working he will be able to earn court-ordered restitution. Court documents show that amount currently totals $1,600 including $1,000 for emergency services response – but could grow after a yet-to-be-scheduled restitution hearing. Vehicular assault in Washington is a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $20,000, or both. According to court records Bakken’s only prior conviction has been a misdemeanor speeding violation for going 16 to 20 miles per hour over the limit, in Pierce County in 2008.
As part of his sentence, along with six months of work release incarceration minus credit for three days already served in jail, Bakken will have to avoid moving violations and alcohol, use an ignition interlock device, and avoid establishments where alcohol is the primary commodity for sale. He has already undergone a court-ordered alcohol substance abuse evaluation and attended a DUI Victims Impact Panel.
Remorseful offender trying to make amends
In an interview Bakken expressed remorse. He said, “there are no real words to explain the shame and guilt I’m experiencing on a daily basis. Not only have I caused her great bodily harm, I have taken away her independence” and “she may have physical complications for the rest of her life.” Asked if he thought his sentence was a just one he said, “I deserved a lot worse,” but added he is working hard to try to make amends by leading an Alcoholics Anonymous group, plus attending four or five AA meetings a week, participating in a faith-based addiction recovery group weekly and sharing his story with newcomers at another regional alcohol recovery program, Lakeside Milam.
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Bakken says he is also undergoing a six-month alcohol addiction outpatient treatment program. Asked, he says that since the accident he has not consumed “a drop” of alcohol, and that he hopes to continue that. He admits to partying all night immediately prior to the accident but says he was not aware of having had anything to drink after 1:30 a.m., about seven hours prior – although he concedes it was obvious from his blood alcohol level that he had.
Police reports describe his car veering off the road, then back on and off again, before striking a guard rail, knocking over a street sign and then hitting Hall. Bakken says, “It’s obvious I fell asleep or passed out,” and adds that by the time he came to, he was not aware he had hit Hall. This is why he drove away, he claims, and he soon came back to see what had happened.
Bakken says he grew up in Renton, graduated from Hazen High School and Renton Technical College, and works as a computer network administrator, mainly for a small IT firm in Puyallup.