by Michelle R Smith, The Associated Press
CRANSTON, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island Republican gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung said he doesn’t have records of a car crash he was in decades ago that killed a man and won’t ask a court to unseal them, saying he doesn’t want to relive what he has described as the most painful experience of his life.
Fung’s 1989 crash was injected into the gubernatorial race this week by Joe Trillo, a former Republican lawmaker who became an independent to run for governor. After a report surfaced about a 1970s assault charge against Trillo, he blamed “dirty tricks” from the Fung campaign and spent the day discussing the crash on talk radio.
“Let’s let the facts come out. Open the file. Let’s find out, were you drug tested? Were you under the influence of alcohol? You knocked a body 96 feet in the air. That’s not easy to do,” Trillo said during one of several appearances on WPRO.
Fung strongly denied alcohol or drugs were involved during an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, saying any questions were “put to rest by a grand jury” that declined to indict him.
“There was no drugs. There was no alcohol,” he said.
The comments revived public discussion of the crash, which Fung disclosed during his 2014 run for governor. He had a district court seal records of the case in 1994, according to an approved motion to expunge he showed the AP.
Fung has said he was an 18-year-old college student when he was driving on Interstate 95 in Cranston shortly before 9 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 17, 1989. He said he lost consciousness and hit James Skipper Jr., 41, of Pawtucket, who was changing a tire on the side of the highway. Fung has said he never blacked out like that before or since, and a doctor later said it was possibly related to a thyroid condition.
State Police initially charged him with driving to endanger, death resulting, Fung said. He said he never appeared in court, and his lawyer told him the case went to a grand jury, which declined to indict him.
Fung said police did not test him for drugs or alcohol after the crash. Asked why, Fung said it was because he wasn’t under the influence and pointed out the crash happened in the morning.
The AP has asked Fung and his campaign staff several times for the police report, starting in 2014 and again this year.
He said Wednesday he never had any police record from the crash in his possession. He said he wasn’t sure he could get the records from court, and would not ask to unseal them if he could.
“No, I don’t want to relive this. It’s tough enough talking about it. It was tough enough talking about it four years ago, and I don’t want to dredge this up for the family, for myself and everyone again. It’s not right. It’s disgusting that this is coming up and Joe’s trying to make it an issue,” Fung said. “I don’t want to have it in my possession.”
Pressed that making any records public could put questions to rest, Fung said he didn’t want to let a “bully” win.
“I don’t have to prove who I am as a person or what happened in the past just because I’m running for governor. This guy is a bully. And he’ll say what he wants without anyone calling him on it,” he said.
One of Skipper’s two surviving sisters, Robin Dubeau, told the AP in September the family holds no ill will against Fung and believed it was a terrible accident. Dubeau, who has lived out of state for decades, said her family didn’t want to be contacted further.
“It’s really old, and I don’t want my brother’s death to be used as a political ploy in trying to fight him for the governorship of Rhode Island. That’s wrong,” she said. “I hope that if he is good for the state of Rhode Island, that the people will elect him. And this should bear no issue on his election to be governor.”
Skipper worked at Ann and Hope in Warwick and had no children. Dubeau remembered him as creative and talented, a Navy veteran who drew, painted and excelled at landscape and other types of design.
Skipper’s parents received $112,000 in a settlement in April 1989 with Fung’s family and insurance company, Nationwide Insurance, according to an agreement Fung showed the AP.
John Leyden, who responded to the crash as the state police officer in charge, told the AP last week that he vaguely recalled the incident. Leyden, who retired in 1990 as third in command of the state police, remembered the case went to a grand jury but did not recall any charges resulting.
“I believe that was investigated and there was no drugs or alcohol involved,” Leyden said, adding that he would not second-guess the grand jury’s decision. “I believe in their findings. It’s thoroughly investigated.”