Woman released early in drunken driving case


After serving three months of a six-month sentence for a drunken driving conviction, Mary Ann Lamar-Lang is home today celebrating Christmas with her family.

Deborah Hartman -- the pedestrian killed on a Hampstead roadside last year when Ms. Lamar-Lang crashed into her -- will be home only in her parents' memories.

"I don't think it's fair," William W. Hartman, the 27-year-old victim's father, said Friday morning after Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold granted Ms. Lamar-Lang's request for a shorter sentence. "Why should my daughter die and lie in a grave while she gets to get out?"

On Sept. 12, Ms. Lamar-Lang pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident in exchange for a two-year sentence with all but six months of it suspended. She was permitted to spend her days at work, returning to the Carroll County Detention Center each night.

Just as he did before agreeing to the six-month sentence in September, Judge Arnold said he did some "real soul-searching" before agreeing to release Ms. Lamar-Lang half-way through her jail term.

"This case, of course, is a traumatic case, and it has caused the court a lot of reflection," the judge said Friday. "But we have a lady who is 56 years old, without any other blemish on her record. As she has indicated, this isn't the end of her sentence -- this is something she has to live with the rest of her life."

Judge Arnold said he didn't see any point in keeping Ms. Lamar-Lang locked up any longer. He also reminded her and Ms. Hartman's family that she was never charged with the victim's death. "Had you not been drinking and driving, this case probably would not have resulted in criminal charges."

Shortly after Ms. Hartman was struck Sept. 10, 1993, while walking home from her bank in Hampstead, prosecutors

determined they "didn't have probable cause to charge anything more" than they did.

Ms. Lamar-Lang told investigators that she thought she had hit a deer. Her blood-alcohol level was 0.17 percent, nearly twice Maryland's legal limit of 0.10 percent.

But because prosecutors didn't charge her with automobile manslaughter, which carries a 15-year term, or homicide by motor vehicle, which carries a five-year sentence, the most Judge Arnold could have sentenced Ms. Lamar-Lang to was two years.

At the time of the plea deal, Ms. Hartman's mother said she was sickened by the amount of time Ms. Lamar-Lang would spend behind bars.

"This just doesn't make any sense," Doris Hartman, Deborah Hartman's mother, said in September. "Six months? My daughter's life isn't worth that much."

On Friday, Ms. Lamar-Lang stood before Judge Arnold, her voice trembling. She apologized to Ms. Hartman's family and to the judge.

"I am devastated," she said. "What I did was stupid. I will pay for it the rest of my life. I will not breathe a day without thinking about that night. Please forgive me."

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