Man convicted of DWI that hurt four wants license back

Posted: Sunday, September 17, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A North Pole man convicted in a 1996 drunken-driving crash that left a mother severely brain-damaged is seeking a limited driver's license so he can return to work as a truck driver.

Richard Deweese says he needs the license so he can make any payments the court might order paid to the four victims in the crash, including the family of Lisa Huffaker. Huffaker committed suicide last November in the wake of the accident, which caused severe brain damage.

''The defendant is now out of jail, is able to lease a vehicle and do his customary work of driving trucks, and has the ability, if he has some income, to pay restitution,'' said a motion filed by attorney Bob Downes. Oral arguments on the motion are scheduled for Monday afternoon.

Prosecutors agreed a restitution hearing should be scheduled, but filed ''conditional opposition'' to issuing Deweese a license. The Department of Motor Vehicles has revoked Deweese's license until 2004.

Assistant District Attorney Jeff O'Bryant wrote that prosecutors don't want to see a license in the hands of Deweese unless necessary. Deweese had a previous conviction for driving while intoxicated and two similar arrests before pleading to one count of first-degree assault and three lesser assault charges in the 1996 crash. Deweese's blood-alcohol level after the 1996 crash was .148 percent, well above the legal driving limit of .10.

O'Bryant wants to see if, first of all, there remains any restitution to be paid. He also wants proof that granting a license would be safe for Deweese and the public and that a payment plan is worth the risk of giving him a license.

Deweese is on probation after serving his sentence for the Jan. 4, 1996, crash. He lost control of his vehicle after leaving a bar and hit the vehicle Lisa Huffaker was driving. All four passengers in that car were injured, but the 38-year-old mother of five took the brunt of the collision.

Huffaker was in a coma for 10 days because her brain was shaken with incredible force. She suffered brain damage, her legs were crushed and eight teeth were knocked out.

But Huffaker survived. Scarred for life, she was able to walk and talk slowly and led the charge to reduce drinking hours in the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

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