Friday, May 30, 2008

Court Opinions

Sun columnist Dan Rodricks takes a look at how this week's sentencing by Judge Louis A. Becker of a Mexican immigrant for a DWI-related fatal crash (10 years) compares to other recent sentencings:

April 2008: A former Johns Hopkins Hospital pathologist could serve as little as one year in prison for his role in a head-on crash on the Jones Falls Expressway that left a 22-year-old woman with injuries that later killed her.

February 2008: An Anne Arundel County man who was drunk and high on drugs when he caused a crash that killed three dialysis patients was sentenced to five years in prison, amid emotional pleas from the victims' families for a more substantial punishment. Judge Paul A. Hackner sentenced Fontaine Pridgett, 47, of Cape St. Claire to 15 years in prison with all but five years suspended and five years of supervised probation - a slightly harsher sentence than prosecutors had requested for the three counts of homicide by motor vehicle while intoxicated.

May 2007: A day before he was to stand trial on charges of driving drunk at 120 mph on the Baltimore Beltway, a former Annapolis man admitted guilt in a high-speed drunken-driving crash that occurred a month and a half later and killed his passenger, a Naval Academy midshipman. The driver's blood-alcohol level was 0.17 percent, about twice the legal limit. He received a five-year jail sentence -- with all but nine months suspended! -- from Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck.

Rodricks' posting drew several comments, including this one:


Before we feel too bad for this guy, let's look at an excerpt from a 9/17/07 Sun Article on Morales-Soriano:

"Before last year's fatal crash, Morales-Soriano was charged in Prince George's County with negligent driving, speeding and driving the wrong way on a one-way street after being stopped in Riverdale in July 2006. He was found not guilty, according to court records.

"In February 2006, he was given four citations after an auto accident in a Columbia parking lot in which he refused to take a Breathalyzer test. No one was injured, and prosecutors dropped the charges, saying their evidence was weak."

Admittedly, it doesn't seem that the judge took these two incidents into consideration, but maybe this sentence should be the norm for those that drive drunk and kill innocent people, regardless of their immigration status.

Meanwhile, the Sun reports on another sentencing, this involving a teenager for the shooting death of Shawn Powell, 18, at a Columbia housing complex in August 2006.

Judge Becker sentenced Monti Mantrice Fleming, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, to at least 55 years.

Here's how the Sun described the crime:

In January, a jury convicted Fleming of first-degree murder, first-degree assault and weapons charges. According to prosecutors, Fleming confronted Powell in a courtyard of the Barnside condo complex in Columbia about 11:30 p.m. Aug. 26, 2006, and the two began to argue. Powell walked away, but Fleming followed and hit him in the head with a liquor bottle, they said.

Powell again tried to walk off and Fleming followed, prosecutors said. Fleming pulled a .38-caliber handgun from his pocket and fired six shots at Powell, who had started to run away. One bullet hit Powell in the back, and he collapsed in a yard. His dead body was discovered the next day.

....Becker sentenced Fleming to life in prison with all but 50 years suspended. He also sentenced the teen to 20 years with all but five suspended for one of the weapons convictions. He merged the sentences for the remaining charges with the murder sentence, and ordered five years of probation upon release. Under Maryland law, Fleming must serve half of the sentence before he would be eligible for parole.

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