Former Alaska legislator Zach Fansler pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment on Thursday for slapping a Juneau woman, and was sentenced to community service in lieu of jail time.
Fansler could have served up to 90 days in prison or been fined up to $2,000 for the class B misdemeanor, which stems from an alcohol-fueled attack where Fansler slapped a woman so hard it ruptured her eardrum. Instead, he was sentenced to one-year probation, 10-day suspended sentence and was court-ordered to do 80 hours of community service within a six-month time span.
“We do think Mr. Fansler should have some serious length of community service so he can do something and reflect on his conduct,” prosecuting attorney Paul Miovas argued successfully during a court hearing in Juneau District Court Thursday.
Fansler was also court-ordered to pay the victim $905.65 in incident-related expenses and to undergo an alcohol assessment. He is also prohibited from drinking alcohol and going into bars and liquor stores for a year.
That’s per a plea agreement that was presented in court from Miovas and defense attorney Wallace Tetlow, and accepted Thursday by Juneau District Court Judge Kirsten Swanson. Swanson did not impose any additional fine or jail time.
Fansler, 39, appeared in court telephonically. He did not read a statement in court.
The victim in the case, who according to Miovas was accepting of the plea agreement in place that did not call for jail time, did appear in Juneau court, and had Miovas read a victim impact statement on her behalf. The victim said that she experienced stress due to the statewide publicity of the case, and that after the Jan. 13 encounter, she feared Fansler.
“While I waited to hear from the police that they had contacted Zach, I was afraid of running into him every time I walked to and from work or downtown,” she said in the letter.
She also said that work became a struggle because she was concerned for her well-being.
“It was impossible to get work done because I was constantly worrying about my safety, worrying about my ear, worrying about the status of the police investigation and worrying about what was going to happen when the rest of the world eventually heard about what happened,” she said.
According to charging documents in the case, and from what the victim previously told the Empire in a series of interviews at the time, Fansler struck the woman twice on her face with an open hand at a hotel room following a night out drinking at downtown Juneau bars on Jan. 13. The two had been romantically involved.
In her statement, she said Thursday while time has passed and her ear has healed, her life has changed.
“Things are not back to normal,” she said. “I still find myself distracted at work frequently, reading all the news articles for the 100th time. It’s strained my relationships with my family and friends.”
Prosecutor Miovas told the judge in court that he did not want to minimize the impact of Fansler’s conduct, but they believe the incident was fueled by alcohol.
“We think this stems from alcohol,” Miovas said. “(Fansler) recognizes this and is addressing it.”
Tetlow echoed that alcohol was the problem and that Fansler had paid publicly for his actions.
Fansler resigned from his position as a Democratic legislator representing Bethel in February. Fansler officially dropped out of the race for the Democratic primary for House District 38 in a letter to the Division of Elections dated June 3 and received June 14.
“He lost his position at the state legislature,” Tetlow said. “He lost what looked like a promising career in politics. That is now out of the question now, we believe.”
Judge Swanson said she hoped for Fansler, who had no prior criminal history, that this was a “one-off” event. She added that the sentence would provide both parties resolution.
“I hope everybody gets back on track,” she said.
• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at email@example.com or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.