A 25-year-old Hailey man who led police on a high-speed chase through Hailey and Bellevue last October was sentenced Tuesday to three weeks in jail.
Blaine County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Fredback noted at the hearing that Justin Vincent Falangurumow, a native of the Yap Islands in Micronesia, has no prior criminal record but that he deserved punishment for driving drunk and fleeing from police at speeds approaching 120 mph.
"Apparently, the defendant decided this was a game and decided to try to outrun the police," Fredback said. "According to a police officer, he had his pedal floor-boarded and the defendant was still pulling away from him.
"When the officer talked to him, he was singing and saying this is like playing 'Grand Theft Auto.' Miraculously, he wasn't injured.
"When I read the pre-sentence report, I can see that this was out of character for the defendant. He doesn't have any prior criminal charges, but what he did was nonetheless dangerous."
When police caught up to Falangurumow, he was upside down in his red Dodge Stratus, which had missed a wide turn just south of Bellevue and landed upside down in an irrigation ditch.
According to a Hailey police report, the chase started at about 3:15 a.m. on Oct. 16 when Falangurumow was spotted driving at about 60 mph on Fox Acres Road in Hailey. Police reported that he drove down Woodside Boulevard at close to 90 mph and then got onto state Highway 75 and fled south through Bellevue before he crashed.
Falangurumow was originally charged with felony eluding and the misdemeanor crimes of DUI and driving without privileges. In a plea agreement reached in May, he agreed to plead guilty to the eluding and DUI charges in exchange for dismissal of the charge of driving without privileges.
Judge Robert J. Elgee ordered that Falangurumow be allowed work release while in jail and ordered that he can begin serving his sentence on Friday, July 13. The judge also gave him a suspended four-year prison sentence, placed him on probation for three years and fined him $1,500.
"You were extraordinarily lucky that someone wasn't killed or injured, including yourself," Elgee said. "And I can tell you, if you'd have hit and killed someone, you'd be going to prison. The message I'm trying to get to you is absolutely do not repeat what you have done. Good luck to you—behave and don't come back."
Sentencing was originally scheduled to take place on June 25, but that hearing had to be continued because Falangurumow has limited proficiency in the English language and a Yapese translator was not available. Tuesday's hearing started at the unusual hour of 8:30 a.m. so that another man from Yap could translate the court proceedings.
There is a small community of Yap people in the Wood River Valley. People from Yap and other natives of the Federated States of Micronesia are allowed entry into the United States with few restrictions because of a Compact of Free Association. Yap and other islands of Micronesia were seized from Japan following World War II and held by the U.S. until they were granted independence in 1986.
Terry Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org