FAIRBANKS — A Fairbanks man was sentenced Wednesday to serve 11 years in prison for fatally punching his girlfriend last summer at a Fairbanks homeless camp.
Superior Court Judge Bethany Harbison handed down the sentence for Rick Allen, 57. He faced between seven and 11 years for the charge of manslaughter. Allen, who originally was charged with second-degree murder, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in December as part of a plea agreement.
The victim, Ellen Florence Juneby Rada, died July 8 from brain damage. According to the state’s case against him, Allen admitted “sucker-punching” Rada on June 28 at the homeless camp across the Johansen Expressway from Walmart because she had been talking about a woman he used to be in a relationship with and he wanted to shut her up.
In explaining the sentence, Harbison said Allen deserved the maximum because he was unlikely to rehabilitate, had a significant criminal record and needed to be isolated from the rest of society.
Earlier in the hearing, Harbison ruled she was obligated to accept Allen’s plea to the lesser charge of manslaughter because she felt Assistant District Attorney Scott Mattern made a valid argument that the state risked an acquittal or a lesser sentence by going to trial.
At trial, Assistant Public Defender Mark Billingsley said, the defense planned to argue that Rada’s pre-existing medical conditions contributed to her death and to question the reliability of the state’s two main witnesses, who were intoxicated the night of the attack.
“I understand the concerns that this sentence somehow values a human life a certain number of years,” Harbison said. “That is not this court’s intention, and that is certainly not the case. A human life can’t be given value in terms of years in jail. What the court has here is a very difficult case with the state suffering from evidentiary problems.”
About 40 people came to this afternoon’s hearing. Several of Rada’s family members have criticized the district attorney’s office for offering Allen the manslaughter plea agreement and for not keeping the family better informed.
Rada’s niece, Jody Juneby Potts, said at the hearing that she felt the district attorney’s treatment of the case reflected badly on Gov. Sean Parnell’s “Choose Respect” campaign against domestic violence.
“The governor’s campaign, I just feel needs more muscle behind it,” she said. “I think that comes from the executive branch and the district attorney’s office.”
Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMcrime.