by Deb Belt, Annapolis Patch
Family members of a Virginia man killed in a Gambrills crash are outraged that a 21-year-old Anne Arundel County woman will face only a fine in connection with the accident that police said was caused by texting while driving.
In March 2013, police said Elizabeth Meyers, of Severn, was texting behind the wheel along Route 3 in Gambrills when she hit and killed Jonathan Roberts, 30, of Aylett, VA, reports WBAL TV.
Officials said Roberts had the right of way on his motorcycle.
At the time of the crash, the State's Attorney's Office said a teenage witness told police he saw Meyers texting on a cellphone as she pulled into the roadway and that cellphone records corroborated that statement. But, the prosecutor said she dropped the stiffer charges when the original statement given by the teenage witness did not match other evidence.
Meyers initially faced six charges: Negligent manslaughter by motor vehicle, criminal negligent manslaughter, reckless driving, negligent driving, failure to yield the right of way and text messaging while driving.
On Monday, Meyers pleaded guilty to negligent driving and was fined $500.
Meyers' defense attorney, Andrew White, told WBAL TV that phone records confirmed that Meyers was texting two minutes before the crash when she was still at work, but not while driving.
But the victim's family still called the deal a travesty.
"They're really horrified that this can happen. That apparently the value of a life in the state of Maryland when it's lost in a motor vehicle collision caused by criminal negligence -- the value of that life is $500 and three points," said Jonathan Halperin, the attorney for Roberts' family.
Roberts' family said they believe the texting timeline was tight enough that prosecutors should have let a jury decide whether distracted driving caused the crash.
"We told them, even if you lose, we will accept that, but try the case. Let people hear it, and let them decide," said Joe Clark, the victim's uncle.
Especially, Halperin said, in light of the fact that the fatal crash wasn’t the only time that Meyers had been accused of reckless driving.
"Less than three weeks ago, she got another reckless driving for going 85 mph in a 55 mph in Anne Arundel County," Halperin said. "How many people does she have to kill before she loses her license? That's the question we'd really like answered."
The Roberts family is pursuing a civil lawsuit against Meyers and her mother. Their attorney is arguing that Meyers' negligence killed Roberts and that Meyers' mother contributed to the crash by loaning her daughter the car and texting with Meyers when she knew she might be behind the wheel.