Judge denies leniency for driver who left fatal accident scene She sought probation before judgment

January 06, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

An Anne Arundel County circuit judge, distressed by a driver's decision not to return to the scene of a fatal pedestrian accident to see what her van had just hit, refused yesterday to go along with a defense request for a sentence that could lead to erasing the criminal conviction.

"Maybe you should have gone judge-shopping," Judge Clayton R. Greene Jr. said. "I just don't see the PBJ," he said.

PBJ refers to probation before judgment, which offers the possibility of wiping out a conviction if the defendant's time on probation is unblemished.

Greene said he would "play with these facts again" and review the driving history of Hope Louise Gribble, 42, of the 9100 block of Cherry Lane in Laurel. He deferred sentencing until Feb. 17.

Elaine Bridgett Woodson, 37, of the 200 block of Easton St. in Laurel, was killed Feb. 23 in an accident in Laurel.

Gribble pleaded guilty yesterday to failure to stop at the scene of the accident, which occurred about 8 p.m. Prosecutors dropped two related charges and made no sentence recommendation. The maximum penalty is one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Greene asked Gribble repeatedly why she did not go back to the accident scene, and she and her lawyer, Victor A. Houlon, said she panicked.

Gribble said she pulled into a parking lot a few hundred feet beyond the accident scene but left 10 minutes later after deciding that, because no emergency vehicles had arrived, she probably had not hit anyone. Greene wondered what emergency vehicles had to do with returning to the scene.

"I wasn't even sure if it was a human being or a deer or anything," Gribble said. "I never even saw anybody step off the curb."

Gribble's was the first vehicle to strike Woodson. Houlon said it probably would not have mattered if Gribble returned because she could not have prevented two cars from striking Woodson seconds after Gribble's van hit her.

"There's no harm here," Houlon told the judge. "No human being could have avoided hitting her. In fact, three human beings did not avoid hitting her."

The victim's blood alcohol level was .29 percent, nearly three times what state law considers drunk, according to police. Police said she was wearing dark clothes and stepped off the curb far from a crosswalk into eastbound traffic on Route 198 east of Ethel Drive, a dimly lighted area.

An autopsy showed that blows from all three vehicles probably caused Woodson's death, said Assistant State's Attorney Danielle Mosley. County police blamed the accident on the pedestrian, not Gribble or the other drivers.

But Gribble "never turned around to go back and render assistance," Mosley said.

How police found Gribble is in question. Based on witness accounts, police were looking for a blue van with damage to its front bumper, grille and, possibly, its windshield.

Police found the victim's hair stuck in a broken front light of Gribble's van, Mosley said.

More than a week after the accident, police said, Gribble's former boyfriend reported that Gribble had told him about hitting someone with the van they owned jointly. He said he had given her a few days to turn herself in but that she had not so he was leading police to her.

Houlon said Gribble sent the former boyfriend to inquire about the accident.

Police went to Gribble's home in March, where she confessed and was arrested.

Pub Date: 1/06/98

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