Endangerment trial ends for MTA light rail driver

Crash at BWI station left 22 injured last year

March 09, 2001|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

A light rail driver charged with reckless endangerment in a crash at Baltimore-Washington International Airport in February last year did not contest the prosecution's case against him yesterday in Anne Arundel Circuit Court but pleaded innocent and left it to the judge to decide his innocence or guilt.

Sam Epps Jr., 54, of the 3900 block of Forest Park Ave. in Baltimore was charged with three counts of reckless endangerment stemming from the accident Feb. 13 that injured 22 people. Epps told federal investigators that he took two prescription painkillers that contained morphine and codeine the morning of the accident, which happened about 2:30 p.m.

Prosecutors said Epps endangered passengers by operating the train while on medication. Epps' lawyer, Craig M. Gendler, said his client might have shown bad judgment and been negligent in his behavior, but he did not commit a crime. According to the uncontested statement of facts, agreed to by both sides, Epps had undergone oral surgery Dec. 20, 1999, and Jan. 10, 2000, and was prescribed oxycodone and acetaminophen with codeine.

The morning of the accident, Epps took the medications as prescribed and later acknowledged that he felt "a little drowsy." Epps had taken a nap during his break at the North Avenue station before the crash and, the statement said, "operated the train properly, stopped normally at every stop, and did not appear to be acting in an unusual manner."

In January, Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck barred prosecutors from including information that Epps acknowledged rubbing cocaine onto his gums within a day or so of the crash to numb pain from his tooth extractions.

If found guilty, Epps could be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in prison and fined $15,000.

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

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