Man who hit road workers gets 14 years

"Calling an Aug. 4 car crash on Highway 20 an extraordinarily serious crime, Island County Superior Judge Alan Hancock handed down an exceptional sentence to a 30-year-old homeless man.Norman Forrest was given a 14-year prison sentence at the hearing last Thursday. He was convicted by a jury in early December of two counts of vehicular assault, hit and run and taking a motor vehicle without permission.Forrest was responsible for seriously injuring two Washington Department of Transportation workers during a high-speed car chase in August. He was driving a stolen car and being followed by a deputy when he lost control near the intersection of Highway 20 and Monroe Landing Road. The car struck road workers Shirley Foster, 45, and Brian Seaforth, 51, who were standing on the side of the road.After the crash, Forrest tried to run away but was stopped and arrested by deputies.During the unusual two-day trial, Forrest openly battled with his court-appointed attorney, Mike Henegan, about whether he should take the stand and what he should testify about.In the end, Forrest testified that he was a chronic methamphetamine user and had been living homeless on the streets of Oak Harbor for eight months, stealing food from grocery stores to survive.Foster and Seaforth were in court last week to give victim impact statements and appeared via conference phone this week. They and their spouses spoke about the mental and physical impacts of the incident.Foster suffered seven broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a broken shoulder, a fractured wrist, a head laceration and numerous bruises, scrapes and burns.Seaforth's left eye was torn by flying glass. After three surgeries, he said his sight is still blurry. Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks asked for the exceptional sentence - which means a sentence beyond the standard range prescribed by law - on three bases: that the victims were particularly vulnerable as pedestrians, the offenses were multiple, and Forrest had a long record of misdemeanor offenses.Forrest's criminal history dates back to 1987 and includes convictions for kidnapping, second-degree assault, burglary, possession of a dangerous weapon and many traffic infractions.Henegan argued that Forrest's record and the seriousness of his most recent crimes was already accounted for within the standard sentencing range.Forrest also maintained the proposed sentence was excessive. I still think a lot of this is really outrageous ... he said. I was not drunk and I was not loaded. Hancock gave Forrest two consecutive seven-year sentences for a total of 14 years. The standard sentence would have been concurrent seven-year prison terms, which means Forrest would have been free in seven years at most.Hancock said Forrest appears to express no remorse about the devastating effect of his actions.But in imposing the sentence, Hancock recommended that Forrest, a skinny man with a long unkept beard and facial tics, receive counseling in prison. I recommend a mental health evaluation and I want Mr. Forrest to get the help he needs, he said."

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