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Assault nets Valdez man a seven year prison sentence, two suspended

Woman almost died after boyfriend threw a knife that cut into her throat


Photo courtesy VPD

Levi Harnden

A Valdez man will spend five years in prison for throwing a knife at his girlfriend, cutting her throat and inflicting injuries that were "just short of attempted murder," according to court arguments.

Levi Harnden, age 30, was sentenced Monday by Judge Dan Schally.

"You shall serve seven years, of which I am suspending two years," Schally said.

Harnden was facing a presumed sentence range of five to nine years for the crime, which occurred on Dump Road in the fall of 2015. He was found guilty of felony assault after a jury trial in March of this year.

He was originally charged with two counts of felony assault, and tampering with evidence, also a felony.

Before sentencing, Schally dismissed arguments from both the defense and prosecuting attorneys that would have increased or decreased the amount of time Harnden would serve under statute.

Attorney Dan Lowery, who was appointed to represented Harnden at public expense, argued that the jury found his client had acted recklessly, not intentionally, and that his efforts to render aid the victim should be taken into account.

Lowery acknowledged the serious nature of the crime, but said it was not intentional.

"It's the most serious type of assault there is in the state of Alaska," Lowery told the court, but argued the assault was more akin to a "preventable accident."

Assistant prosecutor Eric Senta attempted to enhance the amount of time Harnden would be required to spend behind bars by arguing that the accused was already on probation for assault at the time of the incident.

"I would recommend nine years with two suspended," Senta said.

Schally rejected both arguments but agreed with Senta's recommendation that Harnden's sentence contain a strong rehabilitation component.

Harnden apologized to the court for his actions before the sentence was handed down.

"I take full responsibility," he told the court in a low voice. "It was my mistake, I never should have done it."

Before passing sentence, Schally said Americans "abhor" domestic violence and that this case was the only domestic violence case he had presided over in his 12 years on the bench where the victim almost died.

"It slashes the fabric of community to engage in these kind of behaviors," he said, noting that he hoped Harnden will take advantage of any and all rehabilitation programs available to inmates during his incarceration. "I can't give you any less than five years."

Jurors in the trial said the graphic photos of the victim were difficult to look at.

Police gave a timeline of the crime when Harnden was arrested in 2015.

"...Valdez Police and Fire Departments and the Alaska State Troopers responded to a report of a woman with alleged knife wounds in need of immediate medical attention on Glacier Haul Dump Road," police said. "Emergency responders discovered a 32-year old woman bleeding heavily from a laceration to her face and transported her by ambulance to Providence Valdez Medical Center. The woman was later transferred by medivac to the Providence Anchorage Intensive Care Unit."

"Following investigation into the incident, Valdez police filed for and received an arrest warrant charging Harnden with domestic violence, first-degree assault, and tampering with physical evidence," police said.

Harnden and the victim both denied he was responsible for her injury, but Harnden later confessed to throwing the knife at her.


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