The driver of a dump truck that triggered a fatal 11-car accident on the Harbor Tunnel Thruway in April will get a six-month prison sentence for vehicular manslaughter.
John Willie Buie, 59, pleaded guilty Tuesday in city Circuit Court to a count of vehicular manslaughter.
In exchange for his plea, prosecutors have agreed to drop charges of negligent driving, reckless driving, speeding and driving at a speed greater than reasonable.
The agreement also includes a three-year prison sentence, suspended except for six months and one day, prosecutor Julius Silvestri said. Buie will be placed on two years' probation.
Sentencing is set for Nov. 5 before Judge Clifton J. Gordy Jr.
Manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Each of the lesser offenses carries penalties of two months' imprisonment and a $500 fine.
The dump truck Buie was driving April 27 swerved near the Harbor Tunnel, bounced off a Jersey barrier and crushed a Nissan Sentra driven by Kimberly Ann Schroeder. The truck, owned by Cunningham Paving Co. of Crownsville and carrying 22 tons of asphalt, was traveling at more than 70 mph, the prosecutor said.
Schroeder, 23, of Eastpoint, died later of neck injuries. Eight other people were injured in the chain-reaction crash.
Patricia Schroeder, Kimberly Schroeder's mother, said she learned the state had struck a deal with Buie while she waited in court Tuesday for his trial to start.
"It doesn't seem like much for taking somebody's life," she said in a phone interview yesterday. "I wouldn't say we are not satisfied. They did what they had to do. No matter what happens, nothing is going to bring my daughter back."
"It doesn't matter if he went to jail for 10 years, it wouldn't bring her back," Schroeder said. "He's probably having a lot to deal with right now. He's got to have this on his conscience for the rest of his life."
"Under the circumstances . . . we felt it was an appropriate sentence," Silvestri said of the plea agreement.
Defense attorney Jerome M. Levine said the state's case was strong. His client had been convicted of speeding four times before the accident, but had no criminal record.
Authorities cited the truck Buie was driving for having defective brakes and for being almost 3,000 pounds overweight.
Buie, a trucker much of his life, has been driving for another company, Levine said. But his license will be revoked because of the manslaughter conviction.
"He is very sorry for what happened," Levine said. "He's a very quiet, mild-mannered man. He has been to see a psychiatrist because he has dreams all the time about killing this person. He just doesn't know how to deal with it."