Compassion for driver in fatal crash sought

Victim's kin ask judge not to jail ailing man

March 17, 2004|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Relatives of a man killed in a drunken-driving crash asked an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge yesterday for compassion for the driver, the victim's friend, who is seriously ill with cancer.

The request was made as Richard Vernon Green, 42, of Columbia Beach, who was charged with manslaughter, entered an Alford plea in the death of Joseph Edward Klotz, 41, of Wayson's Corner, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office said. Green did not admit guilt in the June 2, 2002, crash but acknowledged that there was enough evidence to convict him.

Judge Paul A. Hackner scheduled sentencing for July 12, with the understanding that Green might not live until then or might be too ill to be imprisoned.

Green, who was allowed to go home after yesterday's hearing, will start lung cancer treatment this week, his attorney said.

The victim's brother, Chris Klotz of Wayson's Corner, said in an interview, "I asked the judge not to put Rick away but to let him live his last days at home."

He said the request was initiated by one of the victim's teen-age sons, who is close to a son of the defendant. Based on how much the teen-ager misses his father, he "did not want his friend to be without his dad," Chris Klotz said.

Klotz said he would have wanted Green imprisoned if he were healthy. But Klotz said he was moved by the bond he saw between Green and Green's son, Richard, when the youth visited his hospitalized father during earlier cancer treatment.

Joseph Klotz was a passenger in Green's truck the night of the crash and was killed when the vehicle struck a utility pole on Columbia Beach Road. The men had left a nearby bar, and both were drunk.

Green's lawyer, assistant public defender Kimber Davis, said in an interview that because his illness has left her client barely able to speak, she conveyed his apologies in court. She said Green loved his friend as much as he did his own family.

"The whole thing is so tragic. It is tragic that his best friend died. It is tragic that he is dying. It is tragic for the children," she said.

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