Man given reduced term in fatal crash

Laurel driver was to serve 8 years

now he faces 5 years and probation

Howard County

December 12, 2003|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A panel of three Howard Circuit Court judges has decided to reduce the prison term of a 45-year-old Laurel man who ran a red light and plowed into a car, killing an Ellicott City computer consultant who had just gotten good news about his wife's long-awaited pregnancy.

But Judges Diane O. Leasure, Lenore R. Gelfman and Dennis M. Sweeney also ruled in a decision issued Wednesday that Robert D. Ice should serve a full five-year probationary term after his release -- with the threat of additional prison time.

In a move that court officials and lawyers said is relatively rare, the judges agreed to amend Howard Circuit Judge James B. Dudley's eight-year sentence and said they would instead impose a 10-year term, with all but five years suspended, and five years of probation.

A new sentencing hearing will be scheduled to make the ruling official, the judges said.

Dudley's sentence included no suspended time or probation.

The judges noted that without probation, "the Court lacks the ability to monitor Mr. Ice's activities upon his release."

Any probationary term should include alcohol- and drug-related conditions, even though neither were a factor in the crash, the judges ruled.

Ice, of the 300 block of Brock Bridge Road, had one alcohol-related offense in 1990.

The ruling came a month after Ice's lawyer argued before the panel that the eight-year sentence -- higher than the six-month to five-year range recommended by state sentencing guidelines -- was excessive.

His client was not drinking, taking drugs or out "carousing" when he hit Kenneth Weaver Parker's Mercedes at Routes 175 and 108 on Sept. 10, 2001, Deputy Public Defender Louis P. Willemin said during the hearing Nov. 13. Parker, 45, died five days later.

The actions that led Dudley to convict Ice of auto manslaughter in March all occurred in the space of 1,600 feet.

"This great loss was caused by Robert Ice in that one-third of a mile," said Willemin, who argued for a lower term for his client, who is still hobbled by his injuries from the crash.

But prosecutor Jim Dietrich argued that Ice's motor vehicle record over more than two decades shows a "clear pattern of speeding" and a "disregard for the rules of the road."

Just before the accident, Ice changed lanes on a road marked with signs warning of a signal ahead to pass cars stopped for the red light, he said.

Even though Ice has said he does not remember the crash, testimony in the case suggests that "given all the warning signs that he had, he just didn't care," Dietrich argued.

He asked the judges to let the eight-year sentence stand.

Yesterday, Willemin said he was "gratified" that the judges agreed to reduce the term.

But Parker's widow, Jennifer Parker, said she is disappointed that Ice will get out of prison sooner as a result of the ruling.

"Nothing seems fair when you've taken someone's life, to be honest," she said yesterday.

The couple had gotten good news about her high-risk pregnancy just before the accident. They later learned that day that the baby would be fine -- and had discovered their child would likely be a boy, she said. Kenneth W. Parker Jr. was born Feb. 19, 2002 -- five months after his father's death.

Jennifer Parker said Ice should always remember that he denied her son the chance to ever meet his father.

"That's something he needs to live with, and he should think about every day -- what he's done," she said. "That's a big punishment in itself."

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