Ex-officer guilty of lesser charge in auto death

March 15, 1995|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Sun Staff Writer

A former Baltimore County police officer was convicted yesterday of homicide by automobile while under the influence of alcohol in a trial stemming from a traffic accident in October that killed one fellow officer and injured another. But he was acquitted on the most serious charges against him.

Circuit Judge James T. Smith Jr. found Warren W. McNicholas Jr., 25, not guilty of automobile manslaughter and homicide by motor vehicle while intoxicated. Auto manslaughter, the most serious charge, carries a maximum penalty of 10 years.

The homicide by automobile conviction carries a maximum sentence of one year. The judge also found McNicholas guilty of driving under the influence, reckless driving, speeding, failing to keep right and two other speed-related offenses. Sentencing is set for May 9.

McNicholas, who has resigned from the force, did not testify yesterday as the two-day nonjury trial ended.

McNicholas was driving when Officer Scott Michael Kern, 23, was killed in the 1 a.m. accident in the 4600 block of Ridge Road in Fullerton. McNicholas' roommate, Officer Michael B. Koffenberger, 23, was trapped in the rear of the 1993 Ford Probe and was taken to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

The three rookie officers had gone bar-hopping to celebrate their first week on the force. McNicholas told an investigating officer that he was speeding on the way home and had consumed three beers.

Officer Kern's sister, Kristy Kern, said she wasn't upset by the verdict.

"It's hard for everybody, for both sides," Ms. Kern said. "Everybody makes mistakes, but you do have to suffer the consequences, and I think that both sides did very well and the judge made a good decision. I don't think McNicholas] was drunk, myself, but he was speeding."

In testimony yesterday, Officer Jeffery Parsons said the car was traveling at 75 mph in a 30-mph zone when it became airborne, spun and snapped a utility pole. An expert for the defense said the car was traveling less than 62 mph because it had completed the curve before spinning out.

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