Port Angeles man guilty of vehicular assault, judge rules

Sentencing set for March 11

PORT ANGELES — Zachary Alan Fletcher was driving drunk when he caused a crash that injured two companions in Port Angeles in 2018, a Clallam County Superior Court judge has ruled.

Fletcher, 23, sat quietly Friday as Judge Brent Basden found that he had committed two counts of vehicular assault while under the influence of alcohol when he caused an early-morning wreck on Marine Drive near the McKinley Paper Company plant on June 1, 2018.

Fletcher, a Port Angeles resident, will be sentenced at 9 a.m. March 11.

Port Angeles police said Fletcher had a 0.18 blood- alcohol level — more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 — when he caused the crash that injured passengers Naomi Kuykendall and Jacob Torey.

Kuykendall, then 19, broke a neck vertebra and has memory lapses, while Torey, then 18, suffered a severed spine and is paralyzed from the waist down, according to testimony from Fletcher’s bench trial.

“It’s a miracle, really, that any of those people are still alive,” Basden said before announcing the guilty verdict.

“But they are, and for that I think we can all be grateful.”

Fletcher was driving a Ford four-door pickup at nearly 100 mph before it hit a concrete barrier, went airborne and smashed into a telephone pole east of the lagoon at the foot of Ediz Hood, police said.

“There are no winners in a case like this,” Basden said.

“Everybody loses.”

Fletcher’s lawyers, Lane Wolfley and Larry Freedman, built their defense on the allegation that Fletcher was not driving at the time of the crash.

At trial, Freedman said Fletcher sustained a concussion in the crash, which was not diagnosed until weeks later, suggesting that Fletcher “actually thought he was driving” when questioned by authorities.

Basden said he reviewed the exhibits multiple times and found that Fletcher was driving in a reckless manner while under the influence of an intoxicating liquor at the time of the crash.

He also found that Kuykendall and Torey’s injuries “substantially exceeded bodily harm necessary to satisfy the elements of the crime.”

Torey, who was ejected from the vehicle, and Kuykendall were each airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after the crash. Both testified at Fletcher’s bench trial Feb. 10.

“Again, difficult case, but I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the state has met their burden of proof in this matter,” Basden said.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Steve Johnson, the trial attorney, said he was pleased with the verdict and reserved further comment until after Fletcher’s sentencing hearing.

Fletcher, who has no criminal history, is facing a standard sentencing range of 12 to 14 months. He is out of jail on $5,000 bail.

“This is really a tragic story of three young people who chose to ignore the lessons of their lives that they heard over and over, and the warnings of their lives, and for some reason had to go out and drink and drive,” Basden said.


Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.