Judge leaves request open on reducing jail sentence

Man's car killed woman in street-racing accident

June 03, 1999|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The man whose speeding car killed a Mount Airy Middle School teacher on Route 140 last year must serve at least 18 months before a judge will consider reducing his sentence.

Mark E. Eppig, 22, of Westminster pleaded guilty in October to automobile manslaughter and second-degree assault, and in December began serving a three-year term at the Carroll County Detention Center with work release.

Yesterday, his motion for modification of that sentence was held open by Judge Daniel W. Moylan, a retired Circuit Court judge from Washington County who has been hearing cases in Carroll -- including the trial of Eppig's two co-defendants.

Geraldine Lane "Geri" Wu was killed and her 15-year-old daughter, Min-li Wu, was injured about 9: 30 p.m. June 1, 1998, in Finksburg, as they were driving to their home in Westminster from the daughter's homework assignment.

Eppig testified for the prosecution that he was racing south from Westminster with Frederick H. Hensen Jr., 22, of Westminster and Scott D. Broadfoot Sr., 25, of Parkville. Hensen and Broadfoot were convicted after two trials, and both received longer sentences than Eppig in his plea bargain.

Defense attorney David B. Irwin said at a modification hearing last month that Eppig is seeking redemption and took full responsibility for his role in the race. It was his 1991 Nissan that crossed the grassy median on Route 140 and crashed head-on into Wu's 1997 Mitsubishi. Prosecutor David P. Daggett opposed any sentence reduction.

In a one-page order yesterday, Moylan wrote that Eppig's motion "will remain open and will be reconsidered if a request for hearing is filed after the defendant has served 18 months of his sentence."

"I am considering the sentences I imposed in the other two cases," the judge said of his decision. Moylan sentenced Hensen and Broadfoot last month, while Eppig was sentenced by now-retired Carroll Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold. Under his plea bargain, Eppig was to serve no more than three years.

"I am disappointed that the motion has been currently denied but am thankful that the judge has left it open for reconsideration at a future date," Irwin said yesterday. "We're very thankful, in light of the sentences the other two gentlemen got, that the judge who originally sentenced him, Judge Arnold, allowed him to be sentenced locally and recommended work release."

A jury deadlocked on the top counts against Hensen and Broadfoot in November, but found them guilty of traffic offenses including speeding at 85 mph.

In April, a second jury found the two men guilty of manslaughter by automobile and second-degree assault, after testimony from Eppig and witnesses that the three cars sped in a 5.4-mile race down Route 140 from Westminster to Finksburg -- where Eppig lost control and the crash occurred.

Moylan explained that Hensen and Broadfoot were legally able to be convicted of the same charges as Eppig, even though their cars did not strike the victims, because the jury found the three acted together and were grossly negligent.

In sentencing the two last month, Moylan emphasized their driving records.

Hensen had 14 traffic offenses, including running a red light and spinning wheels, and 12 speeding violations -- three of them for driving more than 30 mph above the speed limit. He was sentenced to six years in the state Division of Correction.

Broadfoot received a four-year sentence at the Carroll County Detention Center with work release. He had seven speeding convictions on his traffic record.

Hensen's attorney, J. Barry Hughes, said yesterday that they hadn't decided which course of appeal to follow: asking Moylan for reconsideration; seeking review by a three-judge panel that would not include Moylan; or going straight to the appellate courts.

"There are a lot of different forks in the road," Hughes said.

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