Harold Fruitts sentenced to 20 months

January 20, 2014 12:57 pm

Elgin man fined, sentenced to prison for 2012 death of county public works employee

Harold “J.R.” Fruitts was sentenced to 20 months in a Department of Corrections facility Friday morning.

The sentencing follows a December conviction of criminally negligent homicide in the February 2012 death of John Rysdam III. 

Following his release, Fruitts, 53, is subject to a 36-month post-prison supervision. He was also ordered by Judge Brian Dretke to pay a $10,000 fine and reimburse the state for legal fees. His driver’s license was permanently revoked, and he is required to submit a letter of apology to the Rysdam family.

Rysdam was killed Feb. 28, 2012, when a Ford Bronco driven by Fruitts struck him on Palmer Junction Road. Rysdam, a longtime county employee, and three other Union County Public Works employees were working to fill a pothole. During Fruitts’ trial, he said he had not been paying attention and was messing with the stereo system prior to the crash. He was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide by a 12-person jury Dec. 13.

During sentencing, Fruitts’ defense attorney Bob Moon, of Baker City, argued that Fruitts’ inattentiveness was a result of head injuries he sustained decades ago. In one instance, he said, Fruitts was in the military when a hatch hit him and left him disoriented for a couple of days.

The state argued that those injuries, one of which occurred more than three decades ago, would have meant his capacity was diminished for years. The state noted that Fruitts has held a commercial driver’s license for nearly 10 years.

Judge Dretke said Friday that this was the first he had heard about Fruitts’ diminished capacity and the head injuries. Noting that Fruitts had not sought counseling before the February 2012 incident that killed Rysdam, the judge implemented the sentence sought by the prosecution.

Contact Kelly Ducote at 541-786-4230 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Kelly on Twitter @lgoDucote.