A Howard County police officer charged in an on-duty, wrong-way collision in Anne Arundel County that injured a family of four last June was found not guilty of assault and reckless driving charges by an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge Monday. The officer was found guilty of two counts of negligent driving and ordered to pay $600 in fines.
The officer, Symchay Kon Bendu, 29, of North Laurel, was charged with four counts of second-degree assault, one reckless driving count, and two counts of negligent driving related to a pair of accidents that occurred hours apart on June 8, 2013 on Route 100 in Anne Arundel County.
The bulk of the charges, save for one count of negligent driving, were filed in relation to the second accident, when Bendu's police cruiser was T-boned by a 2005 Honda Civic carrying four passengers, including two children.
The collision, which resulted in serious injuries to the passengers, occurred as Bendu, using an emergency vehicle crossover, attempted to make a U-turn from Route 100 eastbound onto what he thought was Route 100 westbound, but was Route 10 eastbound.
Bendu was charged a $500 fine for the negligent driving charge related to the second incident and could receive points on his license. He will not appeal the decision.
For the first incident, Bendu was also found guilty of negligent driving and was granted probation before judgment. He was also fined $100.
Presiding Judge Paul F. Harris Jr. said Bendu was clearly at fault in the second accident, and called it "unprofessional" and a "boneheaded decision," which led to the guilty negligent driving verdict.
Harris said, however, he found the incident to be an accident, and that Bendu did not exhibit "wanton and willful disregard for human life," which is the burden required for an assault conviction.
Harris added that the area of the highway where the accident occurred is "poorly designed," and "a hazardous stretch of highway." He added that the signage and sight lines in the area are poor.
Andrew Alperstein, the defense attorney, said the verdict was fair.
"He made a mistake, it's an honest mistake for driving," he said. "It was shocking to me he was charged with a criminal offense."
Check back for updates.