ANCHORAGE — A state judge Friday ordered former tanker captain Joseph Hazelwood to spend 1,000 hours helping to clean up the Prince William Sound shores that were fouled with oil when his tanker, the Exxon Valdez, ran aground on Bligh Reef one year ago.
Judge Karl Johnstone, himself a commercial fisherman in the sound prior to last year, also ordered Hazelwood to pay what he called "a token restitution" of $50,000.
The sentence was imposed in lieu of a 90-day jail term and $1,000 fine, the maximum penalty for Hazelwood's misdemeanor conviction of negligence.
Hazelwood on Thursday was acquitted by a jury of three more serious charges, including a felony, stemming from allegations that he had been reckless and under the influence of alcohol at the time of the grounding.
Johnstone said he was disappointed that Hazelwood had not apologized for his role in the disaster.
"I'm sure deep down he is very shameful," the judge said.
Although acknowledging that Hazelwood "can't respond fully, financially, for the damage that was caused," the judge said a sentence requiring community work service and some restitution represents a gesture toward satisfying "a community outrage."
Defense attorneys, who said they would appeal, accused Johnstone of "grandstanding."
Hazelwood attorney Tom Russo said the judge appeared to be trying "to put all the blame on Capt. Hazelwood," even though a jury had rejected all of the serious allegations against him. "Capt. Hazelwood did not cause this accident," Russo said.
After the sentencing, Hazelwood attorney Dick Madson told reporters: "The restitution is illegal, I think. The judge has no right to set an arbitrary figure like that."
Madson said that, in almost any criminal case, a judge may assess a figure for restitution, an amount that goes to the victim rather than to the state, as would a fine.
However, Johnstone made no effort to assess Hazelwood's ability to pay, and that could invalidate the assessment, he said. In addition, the 1,000 hours of community service is excessive, Madson said, because the sentence would exceed the maximum 90 days in jail allowed under the law.
Before pronouncing sentence, Johnstone asked Hazelwood if he had anything to say. In his first--and only--statement to the court during his seven-week trial, Hazelwood said:
"I'd just like to thank the jury for the verdict they reached."
Johnstone said he "was hoping I'd hear something that sounds like an apology."
He then lectured Hazelwood for drinking before sailing and for leaving the bridge--both issues central to the state's case, which was rejected by the jury.
"I think Capt. Hazelwood knows that no reasonably prudent person would have had those drinks or left the bridge. In my opinion, he violated at least a couple of Coast Guard regulations, and that constitutes negligence.
"I think Capt. Hazelwood knows the buck stops with him and he has to take responsibility," the judge said.
Assistant Dist. Atty. Brent Cole, in remarks before the sentencing, cited Hazelwood's history of two drunken driving convictions and declared: "Capt. Hazelwood is probably, on a scale of 1 to 10, a 3 or 4 as to his likelihood of rehabilitation."
Sitting two rows behind Hazelwood as he was sentenced were several members of the jury that a day earlier had convicted him of the misdemeanor of negligent discharge of oil. It could have convicted him of more serious offenses--criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, operating a vessel while intoxicated--that could have led to 7 1/4 years in jail and a $61,000 fine.
The former jurors, who, after the verdict, publicly scoffed at prosecution claims that Hazelwood had been drunk or reckless, said they had come to the sentencing hearing to show their support for the captain.
"The captain has already paid dearly," said former juror James E. Rousey, a postman.
Lori Wing, foreman of the jury panel, said she regretted the judge's sentence. "I had high hopes (Hazelwood) would walk out of here a free man and get on with his life," she said.
"In light of the verdict, a lot of the judge's comments were really inappropriate," Russo said. "He was grandstanding to a large extent."
When the trial began in February, there were concerns that an impartial jury could not be found. Polls showed that 70% of the populace believed Hazelwood "was guilty for sure" of some wrongdoing.
Judge Johnstone himself came to the case acknowledging conflicts of interest. He holds an Alaska commercial fishing license for the Bristol Bay area and had, until a few weeks before the oil spill, held a similar license for Prince William Sound.
Commercial fishermen have suffered significant damage from the spill.
Johnstone disclosed early in the case that he was a friend of Alaska Atty. Gen. Douglas Baily. A few weeks after being assigned to the case, the judge spent several days in Scotland with Baily on a hunting trip. Hazelwood's prosecutors work for Baily.
But Johnstone said his fishing interests and relationship with Baily would not impair his ability to be fair and impartial in the trial, and defense attorneys did not seek to have him replaced.