Drunken driving admitted in fatal prom night crash

THE BALTIMORE SUN

An 18-year-old West River man pleaded guilty to drunken driving yesterday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, admitting that he caused the accident that killed his longtime friend as they headed home from their high school prom in May.

John Lawson Pasquella of the 800 block of Shady Oaks Road could face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine for one count of homicide by motor vehicle while under the influence. He will be sentenced Jan. 23 by Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr.

Mr. Pasquella's 1993 Lincoln Mark VIII skidded off Muddy Creek Road near Lansdale Road in Harwood about 4 a.m. May 8, according to court papers.

The car hit the rain-soaked grass shoulder and skidded 230 feet before slamming into a utility pole. Eric Michael Franklin, 17, of the 4400 block of Solomons Island Road in Harwood died in the crash. He was the only other person in the car.

A passing motorist picked up Mr. Pasquella by the side of the road and took him home, apparently unaware of the victim's body inside the car.

Once home, Mr. Pasquella, apparently dazed, tried closing the cuts on his head with a needle and thread. His mother woke up and drove him to the accident scene, then to the Anne Arundel Medical Center, said Assistant State's Attorney Michael O. Bergeson.

Mr. Pasquella was treated for a broken nose, a broken collarbone and cuts around his eyes and ears, police said.

A test administered at the hospital revealed that his blood alcohol content was 0.08 percent two hours after the accident, Mr. Bergeson said. The state's standard for intoxication is 0.10 percent.

Marianne Franklin, the victim's mother, yesterday said she is not interested in seeing Mr. Pasquella go to jail.

She said she would prefer that he remain free so that he can talk to teens and offer his experience as a warning about the perils of drinking and driving.

"With teen-agers, it seems everybody has to reinvent the wheel all the time, but I think they would listen and be more receptive if they got the message from another teen-ager rather than from an adult," she said. "We just want the message to get out that even two or three beers are too many."

She said Mr. Pasquella and her son had been friends since the fourth grade, had gone through school together and had played lacrosse together at Southern High School.

She also said Mr. Pasquella and his family have repeatedly expressed their remorse since the accident.

"This was just a case where everybody has lost," said Mrs. Franklin.

Mareen L. Duvall Jr., Mr. Pasquella's lawyer, said his client is willing to speak to teen-agers about drunken driving.

Mr. Duvall said he hopes to have a program worked out for Judge Thieme to consider as an alternative to sending Mr. Pasquella to prison.

"If he could go into the schools and maybe speak to small groups, it might make it very real to them that this happens to real kids, and this was a real prom night that this happened at," he said.

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