Man sentenced to jail for fatal car accident

Driver was violating his probation by using alcohol at time of crash

March 26, 2003|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A Stevensville man who prosecutors say was on probation for an alcohol-related incident was ordered yesterday to serve a year in jail for plunging his van into a highway median while impaired, killing a landscaper.

A judge criticized Earl Wayne Bowers, 45, for drinking while on a probation that specifically prohibited alcohol use.

Giovany Acosta, 24, a Guatemalan immigrant living in Reisterstown, was killed and two other workers were hurt when the van Bowers was driving careened into the Ritchie Highway median in Arnold on Feb. 11, 2002, as the men pruned shrubs.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Paul A. Hackner sentenced Bowers to three years in jail, suspending two of them. He also was ordered to serve five years of probation; during the first two years he must have an ignition lock on his car that prevents him from driving after drinking alcohol. Hacker suspended a $5,000 fine and recommended work release for Bowers, an electrician, so that he could continue to support his family.

Acosta was one of 15 children. No one from his family in Guatemala could attend the sentencing, said William D. Roessler, deputy state's attorney.

"They say their emotional pain seems unbearable at times," their lawyer, Michael Zweig, wrote in a victim impact statement to the court. He said Bowers and his employer, an overhead door company, can expect to be sued.

Bowers, 45, apologized and said he was focusing on sobriety, family and getting his life on track.

"I can't change what happened," he said. "I have changed."

Bowers is a diabetic, but it is unclear whether the disease played a role in the crash.

"We claim it had everything to do with it," Gill Cochran, Bowers' lawyer, said after the sentencing. "But he also had a .07 [percent blood-alcohol level]."

Before he was convicted of homicide while impaired and related traffic offenses in January, Bowers said that he had a beer and sandwich shortly before the crash because he felt he would suffer a diabetic blackout if he did not eat. But, he said, he blacked out behind the wheel nevertheless, regaining consciousness to find that his van had run onto the strip that divides the road.

Roessler, the prosecutor, said he did not know whether Bowers passed out before the crash, but said he did after calling for emergency help.

The judge said that if Bowers' diabetes were the issue, the case probably would not have gone forward.

"The problem unfortunately is that he was also drunk at the time. He was not supposed to be drinking at all," Hackner said.

Hackner said he did not believe Bowers' assertion that he had one beer; prosecutors later said that a .07 percent blood-alcohol level is typically associated with having a few drinks.

Lawyers said Bowers was serving three years' probation from 2000 for a fourth-degree burglary in Queen Anne's County and admitted having an alcohol problem.

"It doesn't do any good to be going to AA meetings and having a beer for breakfast," Hackner said.

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