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Pa. man rejects plea agreement

November 11, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

A Pennsylvania man who led police on a chase in July until he crashed into a Maryland State Police rolling barricade turned down a plea agreement Monday that would have kept him out of prison.

"I guess I'll have to go to trial under the circumstances," Julian Basil Foster Sr., 71, told Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright.

Wright cut off Foster, who had flip-flopped during what was supposed to be a short motions hearing.

"The trial will be set for Jan. 13," Wright said, concluding the hearing.

Foster, of Harleysville, Pa., faces criminal and traffic violations, including two first-degree assault charges, three second-degree assault charges, resisting arrest, fleeing and eluding, and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

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Police alleged that on July 29, Foster drove off without paying for gasoline in Frederick County, Va. West Virginia State Police began chasing Foster's pickup truck just before 11 a.m., at times reaching 100 mph, then Maryland State Police joined the chase.

By the time Foster crossed into Maryland, he was driving on two flattened tires and still going about 60 mph on Interstate 81, police said.

Two Maryland State Police troopers' cars were rammed before a trooper struck Foster's car to stop him, police said. When police got him out of the car, seven or eight troopers subdued him with pepper spray, police said.

Foster was scheduled to appear Monday for a hearing on a motion to suppress evidence. The motion was withdrawn, but his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Brian Hutchison, told Wright that he, Foster and Washington County State's Attorney M. Kenneth Long had been discussing a plea agreement.

In exchange for a guilty plea to second-degree assault and fleeing and eluding, prosecutors would have recommended a suspended sentence and asked that Foster surrender his driving privileges and submit to mental health treatment, lawyers said.

Hutchison and Foster spoke at the defense table, and then Foster asked Wright: "Could I speak with you in chambers, your honor?"

"No," Wright said, but granted a request from Foster to take a few moments to speak with his lawyer.

Hutchison then spoke to Long, and told Foster that Long agreed to delay the plea hearing until Dec. 8 if Foster would promise to enter a plea then, but Foster elected to go to trial.

Hutchison said Foster does not remember what happened the day of the incident, and a court-appointed doctor found that Foster was not criminally responsible at the time of the incident.

Under Maryland judicial rules, a defendant must first be convicted of the crimes for which he is charged before a plea of not criminally responsible by reason of insanity can be considered.

Foster has requested a jury trial, but has not entered an insanity plea.

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