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Former bishop who killed Baltimore cyclist must use ignition interlock, undergo treatment for at least 5 years

Heather Cook, a former Episcopal bishop who was released from prison this week after serving 3½ years for killing a Baltimore bicyclist while driving drunk, must participate in Maryland’s ignition interlock program and undergo treatment and testing for alcohol and drug addiction for at least five years.

Cook, 62, learned of these and other conditions of her five-year probation at a meeting with parole and probation officials within hours of her release Tuesday, according to David Irwin, her attorney.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Timothy J. Doory imposed the conditions on Oct. 27, 2015, as part of a seven-year sentence he gave Cook for the crash that killed Thomas Palermo, a software engineer and married father of two young children, the previous December.

Cook’s parole and probation officer has the discretion to refine those and other terms of Cook’s probation, but not to add new ones, Irwin said Thursday.

Cook’s driver’s license remains revoked, though Irwin said he was unsure when she would be eligible to apply for reinstatement.

If reinstatement were to be granted within the next five years — a process that would involve interviews and a review of records by Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration officials — she would be authorized to drive only a vehicle equipped with a state-approved ignition interlock device.

Such a device connects a vehicle’s ignition system to a breath analyzer that measures a driver’s blood alcohol level, preventing the ignition from starting the vehicle if the concentration exceeds 0.025%. In Maryland, a motorist is considered to be driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of 0.08%. The system also generates random retests as the vehicle is being driven.

Doory, now semiretired and working in the state’s attorney’s office in Harford County, had the option of imposing a special condition that would have required Cook to “totally abstain from alcohol, illegal substances and abusive use of any prescription drug.” He did not, but Irwin said his client’s probation supervisor could, in effect, impose that or other restrictions by his or her choice of treatment programs for Cook.

As long as her probation remains in effect, any violation of that or other probation terms could result in Cook’s reincarceration.

Irwin said he has never discussed with Cook whether she wants to drive again, but she could be eligible to apply for reinstatement of her license within months.

The minimum time an applicant must wait before requesting reinstatement depends upon the number of times his or her license has been revoked, according to the MVA’s website. The longest minimum wait listed on the site is two years for four or more revocations; Cook was imprisoned for more than three years.

It’s not clear whether Cook’s license has been revoked in the past; Irwin said he did not know, and an MVA official did not return a call seeking comment.

If she were to apply and be approved, she also would have to abide by whatever conditions MVA officials impose. Those could include extension of the interlock requirement beyond her probation period, Irwin said.

In his 2015 ruling, Doory imposed all 10 standard conditions recommended by the Circuit Court, including that Cook must work and/or attend school regularly; that she may not possess, use or sell any narcotic drug or controlled substance or related paraphernalia; and that must she get permission before changing her home address or job, or leaving the state.

She will report once a month to a probation supervisor in Kent County, according to Gerard Shields, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Cook denied an interview request through her attorney.

jonpitts@baltsun.com

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