Court rejects man's appeal in death of physicist

Posted: Tuesday, December 28, 2010

FAIRBANKS - The Alaska Court of Appeals has rejected an Alaska man's request for a new sentence on a manslaughter conviction in the traffic death of a world-renowned physicist.

Byron F. Geisinger was sentenced to more than 18 years in prison in 2007 after he slammed his full-sized pickup truck into the back of a sedan rented by Yong-Ki Kim of Germantown, Md., who was sightseeing with his wife and son.

Kim's wife and son sustained minor injuries.

As a first-time felony offender, Geisinger faced seven to 11 years in prison for his manslaughter conviction. Olsen sentenced him to 11 years with two years suspended, and imposed another 10 years of probation during which he is not to drink or possess alcohol or enter an establishment that sells it.

Geisinger's driving privileges were also revoked for life.

Geisinger, 50, argued that his sentence was excessive for a first-time offender, and said Superior Court Judge Randy Olsen erred in sentencing him by refusing to consider a mitigating factor: his first-degree assault conviction for the injuries sustained by Kim's wife "was among the least serious conduct included in the definition of the offense."

The appeals court refuted that explanation and said Geisinger could have easily killed Kim's wife, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

The court called Olsen's punishment a "substantial" sentence, but said it took into account the multiple victims of the crash.

Kim was a semiretired senior scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. He was an internationally respected authority on the calculations of atomic structure and collision properties and its application to a variety of practical problems, such as semiconductor problems.

Witnesses said they saw Geisinger stumble from his car and flee the scene after the September 2006 crash.

Giesinger said he wasn't trying to flee when he left the accident scene but went to get help and passed out in the woods. He was also convicted of drunken driving, assault and failure to render assistance.

Geisinger said at the sentencing that the accident may have been due to faulty brakes.

Olsen said that he believed alcohol played a role in the accident, in addition to brake problems, despite Geisinger's assertion that he had two beers over several hours and that alcohol didn't affect his driving.

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