A former Nome community service officer pleaded guilty last week to a charge of punching a woman while on duty in February.
Carl Putman was charged in April with assault in the fourth degree in Nome district court.
According to the charging documents, the incident in question occurred in February. Former Nome Police Department Sergeant Joseph Dickerson received a report from Florence Habros of Nome that she was punched by Putman.
In a follow-up investigation, Putman told Dickerson that he was attempting to take Habros to the hospital after she passed out; she was intoxicated, and he was unable to revive her. Putman admitted that he “became frustrated and punched her in the head with a balled fist.”
According to the charging documents, Dickerson noted, in his investigation immediately after the incident in February, that Putman had not uploaded to the Nome Police server the “‘audio contact’ of his interaction” with Habros. When asked about the missing audio, Putman “claimed that he forgot to turn his audio recorder on” during his interaction with Habros on Nome’s Front Street.
It was there, Putman admitted, that he had stopped to pick up Habros with the initial intent of transporting her to NEST, the city’s homeless shelter. It was only when Habros passed out, en route to NEST, that Putman attempted to revive her, was unsuccessful, punched Habros in frustration, and then took her to the NSHC hospital.
In an interview with Dickerson, hospital nurse Becky Bader said she observed bruising on the left side of Harbros’ face. Bader added that, when first arriving at the hospital, Habros, in her “extremely intoxicated” state, “claimed that she did not know how” she had received the bruising. Habros’ description of Putman striking her came later, during a follow-up interview with Nome Police.
At a hearing last Tuesday, Magistrate Judge Robert Lewis condemned Putman’s handling of the situation, saying, “Care was not taken.” But Lewis accepted the terms of the guilty plea agreement.
Those terms include a one-year suspended imposition of sentence, upon completion of which the conviction would be set aside but which can be revoked at any time if the probation terms are not met; taking an anger-management course; and paying restitution within 90 days. But no jail time, community service or formal apology will be required.
Lewis noted to the court it was an unusual settlement for this type of criminal offense, and said he only accepted it because Putman had already completed some counseling.
The special prosecutor for the state, John Darnell, agreed with the judge’s reasoning. He said the offense appeared to be out of character for Putman and that the primary goal of a sentence should be his rehabilitation.
Defense attorney Joseph Miller called the resolution “fair.” Putman declined to make a statement in the courtroom.
Habros did not appear in court at the hearing Tuesday. Darnell said she was unable to be reached last Monday to give testimony in the case.
Putman will remain on probation until July 2019 under the condition that he commit no further criminal offenses.
David Dodman contributed to this story.
Correction: an earlier version of this story used two different spellings, one incorrect, for the last name of former Nome CSO Carl Putman. (The incorrect spelling appears repeatedly, alongside the correct spelling, in the official charging documents.) The story has been updated to use only the correct spelling (“Putman,” not “Putnam”).
The story has also been updated to provide further details on Putman’s one-year suspended imposition of sentence.
Image at top: A Nome Police Department Vehicle (photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM archive).