Man gets 18-month term for crash that killed 2

Sentence is triple what prosecutors had asked for

June 30, 1999|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

A 21-year-old Pasadena man will have 18 months in the state penitentiary to think about the "pride and machismo" that led him to speed down Route 10 at more than 100 mph after drinking and slam his car into trees, killing two young men with him.

Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Clayton Greene Jr. added five years of supervised probation to the prison time for John M. Schouster in a plea agreement reached before the trial. Prosecutors had asked for six months behind bars.

Schouster pleaded guilty to two counts of negligent homicide while under the influence of alcohol and one count of negligent driving.

Greene noted that the young man had not sought alcohol-abuse treatment and that, according to testimony from the fiancee of one of the victims, had been out "drinking and clubbing" since the accident July 31.

"It's either reckless, or it's intentional, or both," Greene said before pronouncing his sentence. "You're not in any treatment to get control of your problems. Then I hear you're out clubbing, having parties. It sounds like you're indifferent, and if that's the case and I'm reading you right, then you're dangerous."

Greene sentenced Schouster to three years for each count, then suspended all but 18 months. When he is released, Schouster must tour the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore within 30 days, then speak to a Mothers Against Drunk Driving group, a Students Against Drunk Driving group and a victim impact panel about the "consequences of irresponsible behavior and how it affected you," Greene said.

Schouster also must write letters of apology to the families of the victims, get drug and alcohol counseling and abstain from the substances.

Schouster's lawyer, R. Roland Brockmeyer of Baltimore, unsuccessfully sought permission for his client to serve his time at the county Detention Center, where he could be put on work-release.

"He needs to see what the big house is all about," Greene said.

Assistant State's Attorney Shelly Stickell, who prosecuted the case, said Schouster's actions came down to "male pride and machismo."

Night at the bars

Schouster had been playing softball with Michael M. Crews, 23, and Jason E. Jamison, 25, both of Baltimore, and Jesse J. Howard III of Glen Burnie last summer, and the young men decided to head for bars in Fells Point.

When it started raining, they decided to go to Rumblefish in Pasadena instead, Stickell said.

Schouster, who was underage, told the judge he had been drinking Mad Dog wine.

The accident occurred shortly before 2 a.m., after they left the bar. Schouster was traveling more than 100 mph north on Route 10 in his 1997 Mitsubishi Eclipse when he lost control of the car near the Baltimore Beltway, Stickell said.

The car spun 180 degrees and skidded backward off the road before slamming into trees. Crews and Jamison, who were in the back seat, were killed instantly.

Howard suffered serious injuries.

Schouster was treated and released. His blood alcohol level, measured two hours after the crash, was 0.09, Stickell said. The state threshold for drunken driving is 0.10.

Stickell said she sought a six-month sentence in the county Detention Center because Jamison's mother had asked that Schouster not suffer too severely because of the accident.

Crews' mother died this year before Stickell could contact her, and his father had little contact with the young man.

Stickell recently found Catrina Bowman, Crews' fiancee and mother of his 18-month-old son, Michael Crews Jr., who testified that Schouster was "still living his life, day to day, still drinking and clubbing" and that she and Howard had seen Schouster in clubs.

"That doesn't sound like someone who's remorseful and detached," she said.

Drinking denied

Schouster later testified that friends had seen him in clubs because he plays pool Wednesday nights. He denied drinking, saying he gave up alcohol after the accident.

Brockmeyer said Schouster's parents had encouraged him to get out because he was so distraught after the accident.

He argued that giving him time behind bars wouldn't curb the problem.

"I don't see many teetotalers coming out of the [Division of Correction]. Nothing this court does is going to bring the deceased back," Brockmeyer said.

Brockmeyer said later that he thought the sentence was harsh but that he did not think Schouster would appeal it.

Sun staff writer Andrea F. Siegel contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 6/30/99

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