A Carroll County jury yesterday acquitted a 19-year-old Marriottsville man of two charges of automobile manslaughter in an Eldersburg crash that occurred while he was speeding to get TTC teen-age cousins home by their curfew.
William J. Kassakatis was found guilty of seven lesser offenses and fined $2,000 by Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. in the June 25 accident.
Killed in the accident in the 6600 block of Monroe Ave. were Jill Marie Peay, 15, of the 7400 block of Norris Ave. in Sykesville, and Jessica Erin Harley, 16, of the 1700 block of Maryland Ave. in Shady Side, Anne Arundel County.
Erin had spent a week with Jill in Sykesville during their summer vacation and was to return home the next morning, Jill's father, James D. Peay, testified. They had planned to spend their last night together at home, but decided instead to go with Kassakatis to a friend's home to watch a movie on their last night.
They were supposed to be home by 11: 30, Peay testified.
Several witnesses who ran to the crash scene described attempts to help Kassakatis and the girls, who were trapped in the two-door 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier.
"It was a classic adolescent male sin," defense attorney Andrew D. Levy told the jury at the outset, attributing the accident to Kassakatis' desire to get the girls home on time and his lack of driving experience.
After a three-day trial, the jurors deliberated about 3 1/2 hours yesterday before reaching a verdict. The automobile manslaughter charges required a finding that Kassakatis acted with gross negligence or callous disregard.
The jury found him guilty of both reckless and negligent driving; speeding at 56 mph in a 25-mph zone; traveling at a speed greater than was reasonable; failing to reduce speed at a curve; failing to reduce speed on a narrow road; and failing to drive right of center.
After the verdict, the judge fined Kassakatis $500 each on four charges, because three of the charges were redundant.
"It was a very difficult case. It's a fine line," Assistant State's Attorney David P. Daggett said after the verdict. "I thought the jury did a great job. I am thankful that they found him guilty of the lesser counts. Now we'll work on getting his license."
Pub Date: 12/19/98