The man who caused the death of Native leader Andrew Hope Jr. in a car crash will serve six to 12 months in jail, under an agreement with prosecutors.
Trevor Church, 29, pleaded no contest in Juneau Superior Court on Wednesday afternoon to criminally negligent homicide, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
In exchange for Church's plea, the district attorney's office agreed to the milder jail sentence and dismissed a misdemeanor assault charge stemming from injuries sustained by Hope's wife, Hazel, in the crash on Oct. 6, 1999.
A witness told police that Church ran a red light at the intersection of Glacier Highway and the Kmart parking lot, said Assistant District Attorney David Brower.
Church's car struck the side of the car driven by Andrew Hope Jr., which another witness said had traveled through a green light and was turning left onto Glacier Highway from the parking lot.
Church stopped after the crash. A breath test showed he had not been drinking, Brower said.
Hope, 76, was pronounced dead at Bartlett Regional Hospital's emergency room shortly after the crash. Hazel Hope, then 57, was treated for injuries and released from the hospital.
The law defines criminally negligent homicide as failing to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that death will occur. According to court documents, Church told police he thought the light was green.
Andrew Hope Jr., known as John, had served in leadership positions in many Native organizations, including Tlingit-Haida Central Council, the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sealaska Corp.
His son, Andrew Hope III, was disappointed in the plea agreement.
``It's just incredible to me you can go out and kill somebody, that has such a major negative impact on the Native community, and maybe get six months in jail,'' Hope said outside the courtroom Wednesday.
Alfred McKinley Sr., Hazel Hope's brother, said she suffered broken ribs in the accident and was in pain for quite a while.
``Right now, my sister is scared to drive an automobile,'' he said. ``And she thinks about John all the time.''
Brower, the prosecutor, said in an interview the proposed sentence was reasonable given that it was purely an act of negligence for Church to run the red light. And a conviction is never assured at trial, he said.
Brower said he contacted Hazel Hope before the plea agreement. The Empire couldn't reach her by press time.
Sentencing for Church is set for June 6. Judge Larry Weeks isn't bound by the plea agreement. But if he imposes a sentence greater than under the agreement, Church can withdraw his plea and go to trial.
Weeks is also free to impose additional suspended jail time during a period of probation. If Church then violated the probationary terms, he could be required to spend more time in jail.
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