In Haines court on Tuesday, more than two dozen people spoke on Ted Hart’s behalf in an emotional display of support. In the end, Hart’s current probation, imposed after a felony DUI several years ago, was revoked and he was ordered to serve another full year of probation. He was not sentenced to any jail time. The judge also ordered 120 hours of community service.
There were a lot of words used to describe Hart in court this week: respected, friendly, a leader, a student, a teacher, a warrior and a provider, just to name a few. In his disposition hearing on Tuesday, the judge heard from Hart’s family and friends, coworkers, Elders and even a couple of strangers. Hart himself also spoke. Reading from a prepared statement, he broke into tears a few times while taking responsibility for his actions. He talked about his commitment to loved ones and his culture. And he promised to stay away from booze, and continue living a clean and productive life.
“I have made my share of mistakes. The major one was getting a DUI when I was barely 18,” Hart read. “Eight years later, I received my third DUI. I’m very remorseful for these mistakes. It wasn’t until I was 100 percent sober that I realized the seriousness of alcohol and the abusing of marijuana.”
The court appearances stem from a felony DUI conviction in 2011. He was accused of violating his probation in 2014 by having concealable guns and alcohol in the house where he was staying. In November, he was found not guilty of weapons’ charges in criminal court. The petition to revoke probation was still ongoing and could have resulted in jail time, but the judge opted for a lighter sentence. As for court appearances, Tuesday was the last one.
“So, I think he’s going to go home and hug his baby and have a good night’s sleep, and wake up tomorrow and start the next chapter,” said Tim Ayer, Hart’s defense attorney. He called the outcome of Tuesday’s hearing appropriate.
The state was asking that Hart’s three-year probation period start over. The prosecution also asked the judge to ramp up the state firearms’ restriction to include all guns, not just concealable weapons. That would have prohibited Hart from hunting, something he and his family said they rely on. Probation officer Sara Dallas told the court Hart failed to report in as directed and had an “attitude” toward supervision and conviction. Assistant district attorney Amy Paige closed on Tuesday by saying that Hart has no one to blame but himself for the DUIs and events that followed.
“You know what? If Mr. Hart has changed his life, that’s great,” Paige said in court from Juneau. “He should have no concerns about continuing on probation, right? He should be willing to go in and provide clean PBTs at the Haines Borough Police Department, he should welcome Officer Dallas into his home to conduct searches. If he’s really turned around his life around, then the continuation of probation for a period of time should be welcome to him but allows him the opportunity to prove what he has asserted; that he’s changed his life.”
Before the sentence was announced by district court judge Keith Levy, a microphone got passed around the gallery. His friends and family testified that Hart has, in fact, changed his ways.
“He’s grown into a fine, young man that anyone would be proud to call their son.”
“He has led me to where I am today. Without my brother, it’s like cutting off one of my arms. I need him here, I need him to help me.”
“He has things in his life now that are more important than that lifestyle, Adze [his son] being number one of course; setting an example and him wanting to set an example of what a man should look like and what a father should be to his son.”
“He’s the most reliable in a lot of ways in terms of always having a good attitude towards the work. He’s very trustworthy, everybody sort of turns to him.”
That was Hart’s mother Harriet Brouillette, his brother James Hart, partner Meghan Elliott, and his boss at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Mark Sogge. They were just a few of people that told the judge that Hart is a valued member of the community, not a danger.
And Judge Levy agreed, for the most part.
“I think we are more likely to deter you from criminal behavior by having you do treatment or follow through on the cultural things that you’re doing, be a light to your community as you have been, than we are by locking you up in jail,” Levy said. “If you’re drinking again and you’re driving, then I think it’s a different story.”
Hart will have to serve one more year of probation and perform 120 hours of community service. But, he said, that won’t be a problem.
“I have no worries about continuing my probation, other than being able to travel, which is really important to me.”
Hart is an active carver and said he hopes to travel to Hoonah to work with master carver Wayne Price on a dugout canoe venture. His requests were denied multiple times in the past, he said, adding that the decision will still be left up to the same probation officer.
Hart said afterward that the outpouring of support was greatly appreciated.
“I can’t let all these guys down now either.”