Bobbi L. Steiner, 25, of Glen Burnie and Jason R. Fisher, 42, of Derwood, Montgomery County, were fined $500 each and ordered into a driver improvement program after Anne Arundel District Judge Jonas D. Legum found Steiner guilty of negligent driving and Fisher of negligent driving and not controlling his truck's speed.
The charges stem from a fiery crash on April 25, 2008, when a truck driven by Fisher smashed into the second of two cars that had stopped or were moving slowly, one after the other, in the middle of Route 10 southbound.
Joseph D. Norfolk, the 23-year-old driver of the second car, was fatally injured.
Norfolk's mother, Kelly Stinchcomb, sobbed as she told the judge Wednesday, "No amount of punishment can bring my son Joey back to me, but I feel there should be a price to pay when your actions cause the loss of a human life."
The cause of the crash was a matter of dispute. Jason Wise, Steiner's fiance and passenger, said Norfolk pulled in front of Steiner's car and stopped short. He initially told police that Steiner then did the same to Norfolk, prosecutors said, but he retracted that statement on the witness stand.
Assistant State's Attorney Erin Snyder said Fisher wasn't paying attention when he drove his truck behind and into the vehicles, causing Norfolk's sandwiched SUV to burst into flames. Fisher's lawyer, Barry H. Helfand, contended his client simply did not have enough time to react when he came upon them.
Norfolk and Wise had known each other for more than a decade, but neither side said what, if any, dispute the two may have had.
Prosecutors say the case is an example of why a criminal negligence law is needed as a middle ground when they lack evidence for automobile manslaughter - which has a 10-year maximum prison sentence - and traffic tickets that carry only fines.
"Had we had something in the middle, we certainly would have charged that," said Kristin Fleckenstein, spokeswoman for the Anne Arundel County state's attorney's office.
Del. Luiz R.S. Simmons submitted such a bill on Wednesday, as he has for several years. The legislation, supported by prosecutors, would create a level of negligence beyond a traffic ticket, but not as high as the gross negligence needed for manslaughter.
The Montgomery County Democrat estimates that 30 to 40 accidents each year fall into what prosecutors describe as a loophole in the law. His bill has not made it out of committee.
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