NEWPORT — The man who drove the wrong way on I-89 because he was afraid to die in prison is going to prison anyway after Sullivan Superior Court Judge Brian Tucker said this case was the most egregious reckless driving he has seen in his career.
Charles Gibson, 62, told Tucker the reason he did not stop for police in April of last year and rammed two police cruisers is that he was distraught after being diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer and had been told he had months to live.
“I was so afraid I would suffer death in jail alone,” Gibson said.
Tucker did not allow for Gibson’s diagnosis to be an excuse for his dangerous driving.
“I understand you were distressed about the cancer diagnosis, but that doesn’t give you the license to act like a lunatic,” Tucker said.
Gibson appeared surprised Tuesday afternoon to see several police officers from the chase in the Sullivan County Superior Court room attending his sentencing hearing. Gibson had previously pleaded guilty to charges of reckless conduct with a deadly weapon in connection to the case.
While Tucker ended up siding with Assistant County Attorney Geoffrey Gallagher in imposing a 3 1/2- to 7-year prison sentence, Gibson’s attorney, Jay Buckley, asked the court to impose a 12-month county jail sentence.
“He is remorseful for what he did and what could have happened,” Buckley said. “He honestly and sincerely believed that his days were numbered.”
Gibson is now cancer free after receiving treatment at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, Buckley said.
On April 7, Grantham police tried to stop Gibson as he was driving on Route 10. Gibson was repeatedly wanted on arrest warrants in unrelated matters. The ensuing chase saw Gibson speed through residential neighborhoods before heading north on I-89 and then south and then north, over and over.
Video played in court from police cruiser cameras captured the chaotic case that saw Gibson make loops in the grassy median between northbound and southbound lanes on the highway in an effort to elude police. At one point, Gibson drove north in the southbound traffic lane of the highway. The police video showed 27 cars pull over in time to avoid a collision with Gibson.
Springfield police Sgt. Michael Beaulieu was able to block Gibson’s car as other cruisers gathered. Gibson responded by ramming his truck into one officer’s cruiser, then backed up to hit another cruiser while going in reverse, according to the police report filed in court.
During this incident, a New Hampshire Fish and Game officer was able to get to the cab of Gibson’s truck and place him into custody, according to the report.