"Worst offender" given 5 years after repeated DUI offenses

Jul 20, 2017

Judge Tina Reigh sentenced Basil Backford, 44, to a flat five year sentence following sixth conviction of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Credit DPD

KLDG: A 44-year-old Dillingham man was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday for his repeated drinking and driving violations.

Basil Backford was ordered to begin serving his time immediately after the hearing at the Dillingham courthouse.

After a jury trial in March, Backford was found guilty of a DUI from September 2015 at Ekuk.  This was his sixth DUI conviction, three of which have been felonies for repeat offenses.

Anchorage District Attorney Clint Campion represented the state at the sentencing Thursday morning. Campion emphasized the seriousness of the crime of DUI and the danger it presents to the community.

“I would note that Mr. Backford has not, as far as we have before us, has not hurt anyone but himself through his conduct. It’s really lucky for him and for the communities that he’s lived in that he hasn’t hurt someone more severely.”

Campion used the risk posed by Backford’s repeated offenses as justification for his recommendation of a sentence of five years.

Defense attorney Duke Circle, formerly an ADA in the Dillingham office, represented Backford in the case. He requested a sentence of three to four years based on his client’s improvement since the previous DUI convictions, the last of which was in 2004.

“He has maintained sobriety during periods of time. And as the state noted, as he’s gotten older those periods of time have grown greater and greater. His last offense before the one he is being sentenced on today was eleven years prior. Prior to that, within an eight year period, all the other offenses occurred.”

After hearing the arguments, Judge Tina Reigh sentenced Backford to five years flat and recommended that he be enrolled in the substance abuse treatment program while in prison. She also designated Backford as a "worst offender".

She said that in making her decision she had to consider the defendant’s past and whether or not probation was likely to help.

“There have been many many opportunities for treatment and rehabilitation. As far as I can tell, four of which, you successfully completed treatment, which is a really big deal, which is something to be commended. Maybe that’s one of the reasons you went so long, but we’re in the situation that we’re in right now.”

Reigh went on to say the sentence is meant to support isolation, deterrence, and community condemnation.

Backford was arrested in September of 2015 after he drove recklessly and crashed his truck into a ditch in Ekuk. After the wreck, he told a state trooper that he had had "7 or 8 or maybe 12 Pabst Blue Ribbon beers" before driving and crashing the truck. He was tried and convicted in March of this year. Backford was in violation of probation when he committed the most recent offense and his driver’s license had been permanently revoked.

Earlier this summer, after his conviction but prior to sentencing, Judge Reigh granted Backford release from custody so he could fish the season. He violated the conditions of his release less than a week later by skipping out on his third party custodian. 

Contact the author at allison@kdlg.org or (907) 842-5281.