Judge refuses to shorten sentence of driver in auto manslaughter case


A Carroll Circuit judge refused yesterday to shorten a 10-year sentence he imposed on a Montgomery County man convicted of automobile manslaughter in the death of the Carroll medical examiner's son.

Reminding those in the courtroom that he still found the sentence -- the maximum for the crime -- to be appropriate, Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. denied the reduction requested by Wade Mendes, 49, of Wheaton.

Mendes pleaded guilty Jan. 11 to automobile manslaughter and driving while intoxicated in the July 13, 1992, death of Russell Adam Jones, 29. Mr. Jones was the son of Dr. Richard Jones, the county medical examiner.

Mendes was living at Russell Jones' farm at the time of the accident.

Both yesterday and at Mendes' April 19 sentencing hearing, Judge Burns called the accident "as bad as any case I've handled."

According to police reports and court records, Mendes and Mr. Jones were on their way to a restaurant the night of the accident. When Mendes turned his 1970 Chevrolet Nova onto Route 97, he headed south and drove his car at about 83 mph in a 55-mile zone.

As Mendes approached the Morgan Run Bridge, "he lost control of [the] car, struck the guardrail, continued to slide and began to roll over," court records say.

The accident sent Mendes to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, where his blood-alcohol level was found to be 0.18 percent, nearly twice the legal limit in Maryland.

Traces of cocaine and marijuana also were found in his blood.

Mendes asked for an alternative to 10 years in state prison yesterday, as he did at his sentencing hearing. He and his lawyer, Steven D. Kupferberg, asked Judge Burns to consider home detention or work release and community service.

In letters to the court, family members and friends asked for leniency for Mendes.

"I believe that a horrible shock to a human being and the experience of despair and hopelessness that Wade has experienced since the accident can be turned around to create a valuable, upstanding member of society," wrote Joel M. Lerner, a friend of Mendes' for 20 years.

In a June 3 letter, Ann M. Burns, Mendes' sister, asked Judge Burns to "show some compassion" in her brother's motion for a reduction of sentence. She repeated that request on the witness stand yesterday.

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