UPDATE: Driver who killed bicyclist in 2014 granted credit for time served
Last updated at 10:47 p.m. Wednesday, March 16
“It is with great disappointment that I’m sharing with our friends and the community that Superior Court Judge William Morse has granted Alexandra Ellis credit for the time she spent in an adolescent treatment center,” Madisen Dusenbury Shannon, daughter of Jeff Dusenbury, said on her Facebook Tuesday night.
Alexandra Ellis pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in connection with Jeff Dusenbury’s death in July 2014. Ellis’ lawyers submitted a motion to have 252 days of time spent in an inpatient treatment center count towards her prison sentence, which was three years with two suspended. On Tuesday, Anchorage Superior Court Judge William Morse granted their request.
“This means that Ellis will NOT serve some 254 days of her 1 year sentence. Instead, she will serve a very modest 60-90 days for killing my dad,” Madisen Dusenbury Shannon said.
According to Morse’s order granting the credit, he outlined a deal made between the prosecution and defense team for Ellis that required her to seek treatment at the Volunteers of America Adolescent Residential Center (ARCH) as part of her bail agreement. Following her time at ARCH, she went to jail for approximately five days before her bail was paid and she was released to her parents as third-party custodians.
“There can be no question that her residence at and participation in the ARCH program was a condition of bail,” Morse wrote. “The parties came to that agreement in 2014 and confirmed it in 2016. The fact that Ellis went from ARCH to jail once she completed ARCH confirms that her participation at ARCH was a condition of bail.”
At her hearing Monday, the Office of Victim’s Rights tried to argue that four hours Ellis spent at the Alaska State Fair in 2014 would make her ineligible for the time-served credit under state statute. However, Morse stated the law does not require a participant of a treatment program to remain in the facility at all times, but could leave for treatment-related excursions while “in the physical custody of an employee of the facility,” which Ellis was.
In a statement from the family, Melissa Holder, Jeff Dusenbury’s wife, claimed the time spent at ARCH was not part of the bail agreement.
“We were in the courtroom in August 2014 when Judge Morse set the bail conditions, and this time in rehab absolutely was not ordered by him or made a condition of bail,” she said. “And even if it was, as we understand it such credit is only allowed if the rehab facility meets strict conditions, including tight supervision by counselors whenever she leaves. This past Monday Ms. Ellis was forced to admit on the stand that she left that facility with her parents without the required supervision. She also went to the State Fair, attended church, and other trips away from the rehab facility. To equate that with jail time is outrageous to us.”
Ellis’ lawyer, Bill Ingaldson, said for the crime she was convicted of, a Class B felony, the maximum sentence she could legally receive is three years. She was sentenced to three years with two suspended, meaning she would serve the full sentence — minus the 252 days — if she was caught violating her probation.
Ingaldson noted that while it may not seem like a long time, a lot can happen for a person in a year, and being in jail can keep them from doing what they would otherwise like to do with that time. He also said the use of her time in custody was important.
“If the goal is put them in jail, lock them up and make them suffer while they’re in jail, perhaps torture them while they’re in jail, that’s one thing,” he said. “If the idea is to rehabilitate them, deal with the issues they have and make them functional members of society, then we should be encouraging programs like the ARCH program.”
Kathy Day, a friend of the Dusenbury family, explained the family’s outrage at the freedoms Ellis enjoyed while in the ARCH program and doing things inmates aren’t allowed to do.
“I know for a fact that family friends of Melissa and Maddie saw her at the fair and saw her eating a corn dog or something and were just outraged,” Day said. “How could she possibly be at the fair enjoying herself when Jeff is dead? So I think it really hit home to us that she was getting lot of privileges that a normal person would never get.”
The family has stated they are continuing to learn what other options are available to them moving forward, including asking Morse to reconsider his decision.
This is a developing story; please check back for continued coverage of this decision. Tune in to KTVA 11 at 10 p.m. for the latest updates.
The teen convicted in the death of bicyclist Jeff Dusenbury was in court again Monday for a hearing on a motion to reduce her sentence.
Alexandra Ellis pleaded guilty to negligent homicide for backing into Dusenbury with her truck while intoxicated in July 2014. She was sentenced to serve three years in prison, with two suspended, a judgment many people in Anchorage condemned.
The motion seeks to further reduce Ellis’ time behind bars by applying credit for 252 days served in an inpatient treatment facility between August 2014 and April 2015, according to her lawyer, Kevin Fitzgerald. He added that 26 days she spent in another program was denied by the judge as part of their motion, as she was charged for the crime five days before she left the program.
Fitzgerald estimated that, if approved, the motion would reduce Ellis’ time in prison to “a little over 90 days.”
Ellis was in court for the evidentiary hearing. She was asked to explain time spent outside the treatment facility — four hours at the Alaska State Fair in 2014. While on the stand, she also told the court she was still undergoing treatment for drug and alcohol abuse and other health issues, and is going to school at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Fitzgerald said a decision on the motion is expected “within a week.”
Ellis has already served five days at the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center, Fitzgerald said. A judge changed her remand date to May 2.
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