Monday, December 31, 2007

Questions on a Fatal Accident

Three people killed in a four-vehicle crash Thursday evening on U.S. 15 between U.S. 340 and Mountville Road have been identified.

Robert S. Stegner, 49, and his son, Sean M. Stegner, 14, both of Clifton, Va., and Jennifer M. Adel Carter, 27, of Point of Rocks, were killed in the crash, according to Maryland State Police.

A preliminary investigation conducted by police found that a Cadillac SUV, driven by Carter, was heading north on U.S. 15, when it struck the left rear of a Honda Element also traveling north, driven by Kevin R. Strauss, 38, of Columbia.

The collision caused Carter's SUV to cross into the southbound lane of U.S. 15, where it struck the Chrysler minivan driven by Robert Stegner head on, and then sideswiped a Chevrolet pickup truck driven by James L. Cornett, Jr., 40, of Point of Rocks.

Carter was not wearing a safety belt, but Robert and Sean Stegner, and the other drivers involved in the accident were wearing theirs, police said.

Strauss and Cornett were not injured in the crash.

Just before the crash, at least one call was placed to the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, reporting a Cadillac SUV passing vehicles on the shoulder of U.S. 15, north of Point of Rocks.
Tragic and preventable.

Ms. Carter has a long history of irresponsible use of a motor vehicle, a history that had she been male would have landed her in prison for a long period of time.

— On May 5, 2000, Jennifer Maria Adel Carter was charged with driving while intoxicated, under the influence of alcohol or drugs or a combination of the two. She was also charged with violating a license restriction. Both charges were dismissed in 2001.

— On March 21, 2002, Carter was charged with speeding, driving on a revoked license and refusing to sign a traffic citation.

— On Oct. 27, 2003, Carter was charged with driving under the influence, driving while intoxicated, violating a license restriction, failure to yield and other offenses. In February 2004, she pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and violating a license restriction.

— On Nov. 10, 2003, Carter was charged with attempting to drive a vehicle under the influence. She pleaded guilty and received a sentence of two years and 350 days, two years and 242 days of which were suspended.

— On Nov. 28, 2004, Carter was charged with possession of marijuana, driving while impaired by alcohol, driving on a suspended license and other offenses. In June 2005, she pleaded guilty to DWI and driving on a suspended license. In October 2005, she was sentenced to one year in prison.

— On Aug. 25, 2007, Carter was charged with first-degree escape, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of $20,000 and 10 years in prison. A jury trial had been scheduled for April. Frederick Police Department Lt. Kevin V. Grubb said the charge can relate to escape from a courtroom or prison.
Somehow, she managed to retain registration to the vehicle in her name and Progressive provided her with insurance.

At this juncture there is a lot we don't know. Like why the judge who gave her nearly three years in 2003 suspended most of the sentence. Or why the judge in 2004 didn't send her to jail for the remainder of the suspended sentence. From the records it appears that the 2007 arrest warrant is related to the October 2005 sentence as there are no charges filed between the two incidents, if so, one wonders why at least one and maybe two years lapsed before an arrest warrant was issued and why Frederick County sheriffs seem to have been unable to locate her.

What we do know is that laws that could have kept us safe, or at least safer, were not rigorously applied.


Anonymous said...

Your assumption that, because she was a woman, she was somehow "let off the hook" is completely baseless.

I can only assume that you are from Frederick County. How you could blame the Frederick County deputies for this tragedy is beyond me.

streiff said...

Two points.

1. Yes, I do assume that because she was a young woman she was allowed to skate. I provided her arrest record. YMMV.

2. Warrant issued in August. Car registered in her name. Auto insurance in her name. Warrant not served. The non-service of bench warrants is pretty usual. One county sheriff in Maryland -- not Frederick -- was found to be stuffing them in a closet. As a taxpayer and voter I have a right to know why this happened. There is a big difference between requiring answers and blaming. Of course, that would require reading comprehension.

Anonymous said...

1. Again - there is absolutely no evidence that says that because she was a woman she was held to a different standard. This may be shocking; just because you say it doesn't make it so.
2. Ok - you keep demanding on your blog and wait for Sheriff Chuck Jenkins to answer to you.

streiff said...

I think numerous DUIs and little to no jail time speaks for itself. I suggest you visit a courthouse and see how male DUIs are handled on the third strike. Unless you are going to take the rather exotic position that her experience with the criminal justice system was typical of what offenders with similar charges would expect -- which sadly seems to be your position thus far -- there has to be an explanation.

I understand it is fashionable in some circles to assume that elected officials have no obligation to answer questions. It just isn't fashionable here in America.

Greg Kline said...

Couple of things. No doubt this is a serious record and the questions are fair but sadly the case is not that unusual nor unique because the Defendant is a woman.

Eight days in jail with nearly three years susupended is actually a pretty tough penalty for the conviction (charges don't count) you outline. That sentencing judge, not a later one, would handle any violation of probation (if still in place) and could have imposed the remainder of the outstanding sentence.

Charges were pending and the system does grind slowly but again the tragedy is that this really is not that uncommon at all. Go into any district court and see the repeat DWI's, driving on supsended licenses and drug possessions. Very few walk out in handcuffs and only after repeated second chances.

Anonymous said...

First let's not forget that two other innocent people died that day. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family!
Now as for her being a woman and getting off.. I know you may be right in your statement. I used to work in the courts and have seen on 1 dwi men going to jail for at least three months, so your statement does have some accuracy. On the other hand it also has to do with the Attorney that you hire! That is a huge point! The lawyer you pay big bucks can get you off most anything! I have seen lawyers go into courts talking to the judge about their golf games. You can NOT blame all the police it's out of their hands once they give the ticket... it's the courts that is where the blame lies!
The woman should NOT of been on the road period. Her license should of been taken away for good..! then again she would of been driving illegally !
Now she has paid the ultimate price for her stupidity her life and the life of two others. If you believe in after life I see her dwelling in the house of pain!
Bottom line EVERYONE should be driving safe!!! people need to wake up to the facts over 40 THOUSAND die each year on US roads.. and MILLIONS seriously injured! 15 thousand by drunks, 30 thousand by STUPID DRIVING!

Bruce Godfrey said...

Regarding the last point from "anonymous," it's not true that a solid lawyer can get you off of anything. But the more general point - that discrimination based on gender has not been proven - appears valid.

It is not uncommon for judges to be persuaded that a youth DWI is not evidence of general "criminality" but of some other issue (alcoholism, bad judgment, etc.), and therefore be reluctant to put any young person in jail. I do not know the ethnicity of the judge or of the defendant but racism is a more typical basis than sexism in such cases - the idea that jail is for low-caste Black Americans and Hispanics, not violators of statutes. But this prejudice is not self-evident here from what we have.

D. C. Russell said...

Drunk drivers kill, but the politicians and courts don't care.

No matter what the law says, or how many innocents get killed, our courts and political leaders don't seem to consider illegal drunk driving to be criminal.

And what do you expect when some of our leading government officials are themselves drunk drivers, like the majority leader of the Maryland House of Delegates and O'Malley's budget director?

It is unfortunate, in my opinion, that news reports do not routinely identify the judges who act as enablers and are virtually accessories to the crimes committed by repeat offenders.

Anonymous said...

Not by ANY means was she given a lighter sentence than any man racking up countless numbers of DUI'S. I agree that this has a lot to do with how much money you pay your attorney. Look at all the celebrities who get off scott- free because of high dollar attorneys.

The most unfortunate circumstance in this case is that she didn't learn from her mistakes, which ended up causing the loss of two other lives. The decision of the judge is partially to blame here and he should have kept her under scrutiny considering her record. By no means should she have been given so many chances.

MOST importantly, the paramount observation here is that there is no better person to blame than herself. No Judge, officer, or lawyer can hold someone's hand all throughout life.