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Many Locals Divided Over Hazelwood Verdict With AM-Hazelwood Verdict

March 23, 1990

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ A few blocks up the street from the state courthouse, Blacky Arbid sat back from the bar at the Pioneer Club and came up with a verdict of his own for former tanker skipper Joseph Hazelwood.

″He was responsible for that ship and that’s all there was to it,″ Arbid said, as the television set overheard played re-runs of Thursday verdict, clearing Hazelwood on all but one misdemeanor count in the nation’s worst spill.

The jury verdict on the former Exxon Valdez captain was in, but the trial by public opinion in bars, barbershops, shopping malls and donut stands continued around town.

Housewife Peggy Robinson laughed when she heard that the longest sentence Hazelwood could get is 90 days in jail.

″I think it’s a farce,″ Robinson said at the Northway shopping mall.

″I feel he messed up a beautiful playground, and then - poof - he ran and hid. He couldn’t face what he did.″

Opinion at the Pioneer Club bar was more in line with the jury’s decision.

There was scattered applause in the court room when Hazelwood was acquitted of one felony and two misdemeanors, including operating a vessel while intoxicated.

Jurors found him guilty of negligently discharging oil in wildlife-rich Prince William Sound.

″Geez, I could be convicted of that every day considering the car I drive,″ bartender Jack Doty said.

″No one would say Hazelwood’s a great guy, but they over-did it. More people around here feel it was Exxon, the Coast Guard, the state - it was a combination of all them,″ Doty said.

″I find myself feeling very sorry for him,″ patron Lorena Stoklosa said.

″A misdemeanor is as much as he deserved,″ said Vince Kelleher, who says he scrubbed Prince William Sound rocks last summer as an Exxon seasonal worker.

″For the rest of his life, he’ll find it tough to find a job he’s trained for. He’s paying the penalty.″

A few doors up the street, at Gordon Bort’s Richmond Barber Shop, men waiting for haircuts were understanding.

″He shouldn’t have been drinking at all,″ Bort said, as he snipped a customer’s hair. ″But since Exxon knew, they should have been up on it.″

Chatting over their afternoon donuts and coffee at the shopping mall, four retired women debated the verdict.

″I hated him and I’m the only one sitting here who does,″ said Bess Crawford, a retired clerical worker. ″He was the captain. Twelve hours later, he still had alcohol in him. When you’re responsible for something, you’re responsible all the way.″

″I knew he was gonna get off from the beginning,″ Catherine Brodhead said. ″He wasn’t guilty. He wasn’t even driving the boat when it happened.″

Eighteen-year-old Jean Walton was behind the mall’s ice cream counter. The former cannery worker from the coastal town of Soldotna said Hazelwood deserved stiffer punishment.

″They messed up a lot of the fishermen. Exxon didn’t even come close to covering what they did,″ she said.

″I hope they throw the book at the oil companies,″ said optical shop manager Beverly Gilfillan. ″I thought Hazelwood was a scapegoat.″

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