A Fairbanks man accused of putting a 4-year-old boy in a chokehold at Ballaine Lake last year was sentenced to one year and 15 days in prison after making a plea agreement with the state.
Elliot Cruikshank, 32, was charged with felony third-degree assault and misdemeanor fourth-degree assault after the Oct. 16, 2018 incident. He pleaded guilty Wednesday to the felony assault charge and was sentenced to two years with one suspended. In addition, 15 days of a 27-day suspended sentence for a 2017 driving under the influence conviction was imposed. Cruikshank will be on probation for three years after his release.
According to a criminal complaint filed in the case, University of Alaska Fairbanks police responded to Ballaine Lake after a witness reported seeing a man, later identified as Cruikshank, threatening and behaving belligerently toward a small child. Police were en route when the same witness reported the man was yelling and screaming at the child and had put the child in a chokehold.
Police found the boy cowering under a picnic table, crying, shaking and nonverbal. Cruikshank was sitting on the table and smoking a cigarette. He smelled strongly of alcohol and was alternately calm and verbally aggressive. He said he was in charge of the boy but refused to tell police how to contact the boy's mother, according to the complaint.
An officer was able to coax the boy out from under the table, and the boy eventually become comfortable enough to tell police his mother's name and where she worked.
The boy told a child advocate that Cruikshank choked him until he felt like he was going to vomit, according to the complaint.
The witness told police she was 30 feet away when she heard Cruikshank cursing at the boy and calling him an "idiot." The boy was crying and sitting at the end of the picnic table when Cruikshank picked him up in an outward-facing chokehold and held him there for about 15 seconds, according to the witness. After Cruikshank released him, the boy crawled under the table and curled up in a fetal position until police arrived.
When contacted, the boy's mother said she and Cruikshank had been dating for about five months and that he was watching the child while she worked.
Cruikshank was uncooperative with police, said derogatory things to a female police officer and refused to provide a breath sample. A one-third full bottle of Smirnoff vodka was found in his bag, according to the complaint.
Superior Court Judge Earl Peterson sentenced Cruikshank to two years with one suspended for the felony assault, leaving one year to serve. The 15 days of previously suspended time will run consecutively, for a total sentence of one year and 15 days.
Peterson told Cruikshank to take advantage of substance abuse counseling while in prison.
"This was a serious matter. That was a 4-year-old boy. Though you may have been under the influence at the time, there could have been some very serious injury to that child. So get control of your alcohol issues," Peterson said. "As I talked about earlier, society doesn’t put up with this, doesn’t tolerate this, and that’s why you are where you are."
Contact staff writer Dorothy Chomicz at 459-7582. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMcrime.