The man who admitted guilt and twice testified against two co-defendants in the 1998 racing death of a Mount Airy Middle School teacher has been released from jail after serving 19 months, without opposition from the prosecution.
Mark E. Eppig, 24, of Westminster had been ordered to serve three years of a 10-year sentence on his guilty plea to automobile manslaughter and second-degree assault.
Geraldine Lane "Geri" Wu was killed and her daughter Min-li Wu, then 15, was injured in the crash at 9:30 p.m. June 1, 1998, while they were headed home to Westminster on Route 140 from Finksburg, where the teen-ager had a homework assignment.
Carroll County Assistant State's Attorney David P. Daggett said he sees Eppig as less culpable than the other two men: Eppig not only pleaded guilty and testified, but had a clean driving record until that evening.
"I felt from the very beginning, the next day, that all of them were equally responsible," the prosecutor said. "Then when I started seeing their driving records - he was different because of his record. And when Eppig pleaded guilty and agreed to testify, I definitely felt he deserved less [jail time] than the others."
Eppig testified for the prosecution that he had raced the 5 1/2 miles south from Westminster with Frederick H. Hensen Jr., 23, of Westminster and Scott D. Broadfoot Sr., 27, of Parkville, when he lost control of his 1991 Nissan - crossing the grassy median on Route 140 and crashing head-on into Wu's 1997 Mitsubishi.
After the first jury was unable to reach a verdict on the top counts in November 1998, Hensen and Broadfoot were convicted by a second jury in April 1999. Unlike Eppig, both had records for previous serious traffic offenses that figured into their sentences: Hensen, with 14 offenses, received a six-year sentence in state prison, and Broadfoot, with seven offenses, was sentenced to four years at the Carroll County Detention Center and allowed to be on work release.
That changed last month, when Broadfoot's sentence was reduced to 18 months in jail and six months on home detention, said Daggett, who vehemently opposed the change, with Wu's husband, Laurence Wu, a professor of philosophy at Western Maryland College.
"I did not want to have Eppig sitting in jail longer than Hensen and Broadfoot," Daggett said yesterday, noting that Hensen's sentence was modified to five years and that he might soon be released from the state system as a nonviolent offender.
David B. Irwin, Eppig's attorney, asked for the sentence reduction in June 1999 from Visiting Judge Daniel W. Moylan. The judge, retired from the Washington County Circuit Court and assisting in Carroll, said he would keep the matter open - but that Eppig would have to serve at least 18 months.
"I was thrilled," Irwin said yesterday, after Moylan granted immediate release to Eppig.