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Victim's Family Outraged that Driver Fined $500 in Fatal Gambrills Crash

A witness statement that a Severn woman was texting while driving didn't match with physical evidence, prosecutors said, so a plea deal in the case was reached.

Jonathan Roberts, 30, of Aylett, VA, shown with his daughter, was killed last year in a crash near Gambrills. Credit: Screenshot from WBAL TV
Jonathan Roberts, 30, of Aylett, VA, shown with his daughter, was killed last year in a crash near Gambrills. Credit: Screenshot from WBAL TV

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.

Tee Vee May 14, 2014 at 09:06 AM
I completely agree she got off with a slap on the wrist. It sounds like there is enough evidence to charge her, but if there was a two minute interval, that's a long time. Either way she took a life from being negligent and should be severely punished. I totally disagree with her mom being named in the lawsuit, the mom did nothing wrong. This young woman is 21 years old. I know you can sue anyone for anything, but the mom is not responsible.
Andy R May 14, 2014 at 10:07 AM
The mom shouldn't be on this. If you take a life, even by accident, you should be in a whole lot of trouble. There are lots of reasons she might have been playing with her phone besides texting, but all that matters is what happened.
Kenn Bing May 14, 2014 at 02:10 PM
I think the punishment should be more harsh as well. In the area of lawsuits, why not the cell phone manufacturers, automobile manufacturers too? The technologies of preventing this major distraction of smart phones is real and in production if you want to pay for it. Cars that sense you are too close, Bluetooth type of technologies for interfacing the smart phone, so you are not distracted by looking at it. This is a preventable condition if we hold our industries, who are making huge profits on smart phones responsible, like we have with the automobile industry for safety. We cannot, however use this responsibility of our industries as an excuse for the consequences of this 21 year old. But it is naive to think you can stop everyone from using their communication devices in a vehicle. Outside of our home, communication and transportation are two of the most important and significant parts of our life and that is not going to change. We need to look for other ways to prevent this along with holding those responsible for such a tragedy.
Kenn Bing May 15, 2014 at 01:45 PM
Wow! You are very angry. I have worked in the auto industry and I know that airbags and seat belts in cars employ a lot of people and save a lot of lives. So, you can have companies making money and providing a safer environment. Of course, you, who throws the first stone, never have texted or answered a phone or ate a sandwich, or drink a refreshment, or change the channel on your radio or??? It is clear in my comments, that she must be held responsible and to a greater degree than she was. So, I am left with "you are right and everyone else is dammed". If your point was to attack, well Lou, you succeeded. This is a major issue and just like those in the society in the 1950's 60's and 70's that were numb to car safety and drinking and driving, it was always stated "that's just the way it is" even though people were dying in minor collisions and because some were irresponsible with drinking alcohol. Usually men! I will warn you once that you are the aggressor here and one who should be watched. This was an opinion, not judgement by a court of law or an act of congress, so back off of the personal attack! Semper Fi!
Wayne Stepp May 15, 2014 at 05:20 PM
what a joke!!! At least O'Malley got his $500!!!!!

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