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Man, 31, pleads guilty to homicide by vehicle in February 1993 car crash


An Ellicott City man pleaded guilty to homicide by vehicle in Howard Circuit Court yesterday for a February 1993 drunken-driving accident in which one of his friends was killed.

William Bruce Bell, 31, of the 3500 block of Courthouse Drive, could be sentenced to up to 2 1/2 years in prison as part of the plea agreement he accepted before Judge Cornelius Sybert Jr.

Bell, a groundskeeper for Columbia Housing Corp., had been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison in Howard District Court in January for homicide by vehicle. He appealed his conviction to Howard Circuit Court.

As part of yesterday's plea agreement, Judge Sybert agreed not to give Bell more than the 2 1/2 -year sentence he received in District Court. The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Bell's attorney, Michael Caplan of Baltimore, is expected to argue for a lenient sentence at his client's sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for Sept. 20.

Additional charges of manslaughter, driving while intoxicated, speeding and several other traffic offenses were dropped by prosecutors while the case was in District Court.

Cyreno Maurice Johnson, 41, of Fort Washington, was killed in the crash, which happened on U.S. 29 near U.S. 40 in Ellicott City early Feb. 21, 1993, Assistant State's Attorney Timothy Mitchell said.

Bell was taking Mr. Johnson home after they attended a party in Elkridge and went to a Baltimore nightclub. Bell's car, traveling at 71 mph, left U.S. 29, struck a guardrail, became airborne and rolled 19 feet down an embankment before it came to rest on Frederick Road, Mr. Mitchell said. Mr. Johnson was pronounced dead at the scene.

Bell, who was taken to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore for a broken clavicle, had a blood-alcohol content of 0.17 percent, well above the state's legal limit of 0.1 percent.

Mr. Mitchell said Bell told police that he drank about nine beers and one shot of whiskey.

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