Ellicott City man, 25, gets 3 years in highway death

Collision with speeding driver was tied to alcohol

October 13, 2004|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A 25-year-old Ellicott City man was sentenced yesterday to three years in prison in the death of a speeding driver - the maximum for conviction of alcohol-related negligent homicide but the minimum under state sentencing guidelines, which recommend up to seven years.

Jamel Maurice Reid made no statement in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court on the advice of his lawyer, who said he will appeal Reid's conviction in the death of Frank D. Buchacz, 26, of Essex.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge David S. Bruce said that although Reid did not intend to cause the crash in Glen Burnie on July 9 last year, he made a "conscious decision to drink and drive while on probation" for a drug distribution conviction and also had smoked marijuana shortly before the collision. Bruce said his only regret about the sentence was that he could not impose more prison time.

Deputy State's Attorney William D. Roessler said the case points to a quirk in sentencing. The law sets three years as the maximum punishment for negligent homicide, but state sentencing guidelines take into account a defendant's record as well as the nature of the current crime.

The victim's parents, Frank J. and Pat Buchacz, called Reid's sentence fair. "Hopefully, with time, he can turn his life around also," Frank J. Buchacz said.

Reid's family declined to speak to reporters.

The Buchaczes' son was driving his black Mercury Cougar east on Ordnance Road at what police believe was nearly 75 mph in a 40-mph zone when a Jeep Liberty driven by Reid turned left onto Route 10 and into the other man's path.

"All we have is memories," Pat Buchacz said of her eldest child, who worked in ventilation system sales and was a part-time community college student and lifeguard.

Her husband described their son as "the spark in our family" who was fun-loving, danced to a Polish polka radio program and had a close bond with his grandmother, who died a month later.

Frank J. Buchacz said if his son did something wrong that night, "he paid the ultimate price."

Defense lawyer David W. Fischer said an appeal will focus on what he views as Bruce's incorrect interpretation of the law. Though Reid, with a blood alcohol level of 0.07 percent, was impaired by legal standards, Fischer said the victim was not wearing a seat belt, was speeding and had alcohol in his system.

"We believe he was entirely responsible for his own death," Fischer said.

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