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Judges uphold sentence in auto manslaughter; Westminster man's driving record noted in court's decision


A three-judge panel upheld yesterday a five-year sentence that a Westminster man received for his role in causing the death of a Carroll County teacher while he and two others were speeding on Route 140 in June 1998.

The driving record of Frederick H. Hensen Jr., 22, one of two men convicted by a jury of auto manslaughter in the death of Geraldine "Geri" Lane Wu, was the worst of any 21-year-old the judges had seen, they wrote in a four-page opinion.

"The record makes it obvious that Mr. Hensen was a menace on the highway," the panel -- retired Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold, District Judge Marc G. Rasinsky, and Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway -- wrote. "Surely, Mr. Hensen's horrendous driving should, and did come to haunt him."

Hensen, whose six-year sentence was reduced by a year in June, had asked the panel for more leniency. His attorney, J. Barry Hughes, argued that Judge Daniel W. Moylan placed too much weight on Hensen's driving record.

Hughes maintained that co-defendants Scott D. Broadfoot, 26, of Parkville and Mark E. Eppig, 23, of Westminster shared equally in causing the death of Wu on June 1, 1998, when they raced their cars east on Route 140 near Finksburg. Eppig lost control of his Nissan, crossed the median and crashed into Wu's car, killing her and injuring her daughter, Min-li, then 15.

The panel noted Eppig pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in the Carroll County Detention Center with work release, and that Broadfoot was convicted by a jury and sentenced to four years in the county detention center.

Eppig had a perfect driving record and Broadfoot had received seven speeding tickets, the panel noted.

Hensen's record reflected "at least 11 speeding convictions, including four, five-point violations, meaning he was traveling at least 85 mph when stopped," the panelwrote.

Moylan, a retired visiting judge from Washington County, was within his right "to impose any sentence that is not cruel and unusual and not motivated by prejudice, ill-will, or other impermissible considerations," the panel said. "A judge is encouraged to consider information concerning the convicted person's reputation, past offenses, health, habits, mental and moral propensities, social background, and any other matters."

The three judges could have raised or lowered Hensen's sentence.

Hughes, who had not seen the panel's opinion, declined to comment, noting that Moylan held open the possibility that he might further modify Hensen's sentence in June.

At December's sentencing review, prosecutor David P. Daggett strenuously opposed any reduction, asking the panel to raise Hensen's term to eight years and calling the defendant "a highway menace who has earned every minute he gets."

An appeal of Hensen's conviction has been filed and a date for arguments in the state Court of Special Appeals has not been set, Daggett said.

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