A Glen Burnie man whose speeding and erratic driving led to the death of an 83-year-old grandmother on Route 295 last fall was sentenced yesterday by an Anne Arundel County judge to serve 18 months in jail, followed by probation and community service.
Joseph Michael Glardon Jr., 25, pleaded guilty to homicide by automobile while under the influence of drugs in the crash Nov. 9 that killed Viola DeLuca of Niagara Falls, N.Y., and injured her four relatives. DeLuca was visiting family in Maryland, and they had just left Arundel Mills mall after an afternoon shopping trip.
"You had illegal substances in your system," Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck told Glardon. "But nobody forced you to take those drugs and nobody forced you to get behind the wheel of that car."
Glardon tested positive for cocaine and barbiturates after the crash, Deputy State's Attorney William D. Roessler said. The defense contended that he was so tired he fell asleep at the wheel and that he was not under the influence of drugs at the time.
Roessler called the plea - Glardon had been charged with auto manslaughter - a compromise because of Maryland's lack of a negligent manslaughter law. He said that if a trial judge found that Glardon was not grossly negligent but only negligent, the most he would have gotten is a $500 fine and he would have kept his license.
"I couldn't take that chance," Roessler said.
The homicide conviction will lead to a license revocation.
Glardon had seven prior speeding tickets, had his license suspended once and was on probation for burglary at the time of the fatal crash, Roessler said. Glardon's lawyer, James V. Hitaffer, had requested probation before judgment or suspended jail time as punishment.
Manck sentenced Glardon to three years in prison, suspending all but 18 months. His five years of probation will include 50 hours of community work, possibly at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where DeLuca never regained consciousness before dying Nov. 26 of massive injuries.
After apologizing to DeLuca's family, Glardon told the judge, "This haunts me deeply and troubles me every day of my life." Glardon's parents testified that he has struggled with what he did.
Members of DeLuca's family, some of whom had been seriously injured, said they were pleased that the judge ordered the community service they sought.
"We wanted his sentencing to be something that would make him think and reflect on what he did and change for the better," said Eileen Taylor of Burtonsville, who was hurt in the crash.
Daughters described DeLuca as a devoted mother, a woman always ready with a kind word and having a sharp mind. They said she took care of others, but also of herself - she walked three miles a day. She seemed younger than her years, they said.
"She had more energy than all of us put together," said Viola Bieniecki of Wilson, N.Y., a daughter. But she was so badly hurt in the crash that relatives said they did not immediately recognize her in the hospital.
Witnesses said Glardon's southbound Jeep sped, tailgated and zigzagged on the highway before striking the Prizm in which DeLuca was a passenger, Roessler said. The Prizm hit the guardrail and twisted in the air before crashing, flipping and landing nearly upside down.
Also injured were DeLuca's son-in-law, Anthony Taylor, who was driving and who, his wife said, still suffers memory lapses from head injuries and the couple's 7-year-old daughter.