Driver offers guilty plea in fatal crash

He had a seizure

incorrect use of medication blamed

Negligent manslaughter

He gets suspended sentence, chance to have record cleared

April 24, 2001|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore man who suffered a seizure while driving pleaded guilty yesterday to negligent manslaughter in a fatal crash on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway - an accident blamed on his incorrect use of medication.

Willie James Jenkins, 60, wept in Anne Arundel Circuit Court as he apologized for the accident that he barely remembers. The crash occurred June 21, 1999.

"The family over here, I'm sorry," Jenkins cried, holding his left hand at his head.

Seated in the courtroom were relatives of the victim, Robert W. Snyder Jr., 39, of Bear, Del., who also were weeping. In a victim statement, Snyder's parents recalled a son with a quick wit and ready smile, a kind man who was to marry that fall. They said a 4-H award in Cecil County, where he grew up and was a 4-H leader, was established in his memory.

Jenkins, who had not had so much as a traffic ticket until the accident, pleaded guilty before Judge Nancy Davis-Loomis in a deal that could allow him to have his record wiped clean after several years.

He received a three-year suspended sentence, five years of supervised probation and a $5,000 fine. But after three years of showing that he has been properly taking anti-seizure medication, he can ask a judge to change the record to probation before judgment. Assistant State's Attorney Shelly Stickell said prosecutors will not oppose such a request.

Stickell said the unusual plea resulted from peculiar circumstances.

Jenkins took daily medication to control seizures that were the result of a beating in Baltimore left him in a coma for a week in 1993.

"Part of the problem in this case was medical noncompliance by the defendant, which led to this fatal accident," Stickell said.

But Jenkins' lawyer, Marsden S. Coates, said whether he was taking the medicine as directed would have been a huge trial issue. Jenkins was to take three doses a day, but a prescription did not say when. He now takes doses throughout the day. But on the day of the accident, Jenkins, a forklift operator for the National Security Agency, had taken all the medication at once before 8 a.m. After the crash at 3:30 p.m., medical tests indicated the level of the drug in his blood was too low.

He had a seizure and lost control of his northbound car near Route 100. It struck Snyder's car in the rear, sending it careening into a tree, killing the driver.

Jenkins' vehicle flipped and landed on a parked vehicle on the side of the parkway.

State Trooper Byron Scott estimated Jenkins' car was going between 68 and 87 mph, Stickell said. The Motor Vehicle Administration has revoked Jenkins' license.

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