Student sentenced to 1 week for DWI

Prosecution, defense sought leniency after teen helped victim

March 07, 2000|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A student chef from Sykesville was sentenced to a week in the county jail yesterday after he was found guilty of driving while intoxicated when he ran down an Eldersburg pedestrian last summer.

Defense attorney Edward Ulsch and prosecutor David P. Daggett asked Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. to be lenient because defendant Walter Clarke Griffin, 19, made one good choice on a rainy night last July. He got help for John Larmore, the 38-year-old victim, who was severely injured when Griffin's vehicle struck the man as he walked along the curb on Liberty Road about 1 a.m.

"To your credit, your going to get help in all likelihood saved a man's life," Beck told Griffin in a courtroom filled with South Carroll High School students, who were observing court proceedings.

Griffin, a June graduate of South Carroll, entered a not guilty plea, but agreed to accept the prosecutor's version of what happened.

According to Daggett, police and other witnesses would have testified that Griffin was underage and had a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 -- well above the legal limit of 0.10 -- when his vehicle struck Larmore, knocking the man out of his tennis shoes and over an embankment near Calvert Way.

Griffin told police he was at first unsure what he had struck, Daggett said. He went to look for a telephone. Finding none, he returned to the scene and saw the shoes in the road.

Griffin then went to a nearby gas station, where he saw a state trooper and told her what had happened, Daggett said. The trooper saw blood and vehicle damage and quickly found Larmore with Griffin's help.

His client accepted responsibility for the injuries he caused, Ulsch said.

Before imposing sentence for the primary charge of causing a life-threatening injury by driving while intoxicated, Beck said the disposition would not have taken so long if the defendant had any previous alcohol offenses.

"Had the victim died, in all likelihood you would have been guilty of a serious felony, auto manslaughter or homicide by motor vehicle," Beck told Griffin.

The judge then imposed a one-year sentence in the county jail and suspended all but one week of the term, to begin July 17 after Griffin has returned from culinary school in New York.

Upon being released from Carroll County Detention Center on July 24, Griffin will be on five years' probation. He must serve home detention with electronic monitoring until August, when he returns to school.

Beck also ordered Griffin to complete an alcohol counseling program and speak to groups of his peers about how his drunken driving has affected him, his life and his family.

The judge did not specify how often Griffin should offer testimony to his peers, but made it clear that if he did so often it would help in deciding what modification might be appropriate.

No one should think the defendant is getting off easy, Beck told the students in the courtroom.

"Besides the sentence and period of probation, he will have the memory of this for the rest of his life," Beck said.

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