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Judge rejects plea agreement in fatal accident case

October 02, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

A Franklin County judge on Wednesday rejected a plea agreement and proposed a minimum one-year prison sentence for a Waynesboro, Pa., man involved in a fatal accident last year.

Peter Matthew Shumway, 22, of 117 Garfield St., pleaded no contest on Aug. 20 to accident involving death or personal injury, a third-degree felony, in the Nov. 1, 2002, death of Qiquang Dong, 50, of Crosswell, Tenn., according to court records.

A no contest plea means a defendant is not admitting guilt but will offer no defense.

As part of the plea agreement, the prosecution agreed to recommend a sentence of 90 days in the county prison, 90 days under house arrest on an electronic monitor and probation.

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"I can't find a good reason why the agreement has been entered into ... death has occurred," Judge Douglas W. Herman said during what was to have been Shumway's sentencing hearing.

Because someone died in the accident, Herman said the applicable sentence should be a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in prison.

"We're going to revoke the plea agreement unless Mr. Shumway and Mr. Keller want to proceed with this matter," Herman said.

Defense attorney David S. Keller said he would prefer the case be listed for trial rather than accept the one-year minimum sentence. Herman ordered the case scheduled for trial.

According to Waynesboro police, Shumway was driving a Volkswagen Jetta north on South Potomac Street at 12:16 a.m. on Nov. 1, 2002, when he allegedly ran a flashing red light and struck an eastbound GMC van driven by the victim's husband, Qi Guang Guo.

Qiquang Dong was pronounced dead at the scene.

The affidavit stated two passengers in Shumway's car "were under the influence of alcohol" and "nobody knew where the operator had gone."

According to police testimony at his preliminary hearing earlier this year, Shumway was present when police and ambulance personnel arrived, but walked away from the crash shortly thereafter. He left his driver's license and insurance information with one of his passengers, but did not contact police until several hours later, police said.

According to the affidavit, Shumway "failed to remain at the scene of the accident and fulfill his duty to give his information and to render aid to the others involved in the accident."

Herman disputed the contention that Shumway had complied with the law by giving the information to his passengers, who were "most likely intoxicated," instead of to police.

"Mr. Shumway wasn't at the scene of the accident very long and there was evidence Mr. Shumway was drinking before the accident," Herman said. The judge said one could infer from those facts that there was an effort to "conceal evidence of a crime."

Shumway never was tested for the presence of alcohol or drugs in his system, but the affidavit alleged that witnesses said they had seen him at two Waynesboro-area taverns where he had "several drinks at both establishments."

Herman said he also was concerned about whether the victim's family had been adequately consulted about the plea. Franklin County Assistant District Attorney T.R. Williams told Herman he had been in contact with attorneys for her family, but had not received any reaction from the family "positively or negatively."

Waynesboro police also had contacted members of her family in the Waynesboro area, although Williams said the language barrier was an obstacle in communicating with them.

Keller called Herman's decision "somewhat of a surprise."

He said the 90-day minimum sentence applied to cases of injury and the one-year minimum to accidents involving death, but that issue had been discussed at the time of the plea agreement.

"There were risks for both sides," Keller said, noting that the prosecution could have faced problems proving its case at trial.

Williams declined to comment on the judge's decision. The next trial term is in November.

According to court records, Shumway was arrested for driving under the influence in 1999 and was placed in the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program. He successfully completed the conditions of the program and in May 2000 the charge was dismissed.

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