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Man who crashed during July chase is found guilty

December 09, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

The 71-year-old man who crashed into two Maryland State Police troopers and struck another officer after police disabled his van in a July 29 chase on Interstate 81 was ordered Monday to give up his driver's license and pay nearly $7,000 for the damage he caused to the police vehicles.

Julian Basil Foster Sr., of Harleysville, Pa., was found guilty Monday in a Washington County Circuit Court trial of second-degree assault and attempting to elude a police officer in connection with the incident.

Foster entered pleas of not guilty to the charges, but was found guilty by Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright after a short trial. Foster elected not to have a jury present.

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Washington County State's Attorney M. Kenneth Long Jr. did not seek incarceration and dropped the remaining 18 charges against Foster stemming from the chase, including first-degree assault, resisting arrest and malicious destruction of property.

Wright ordered Foster to relinquish his driver's license to the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation, to continue mental health treatment and to repay Maryland State Police $6,916 for damages.

After Foster entered his plea, Long read in court the police version of what happened.

Long said that at about 11:05 a.m. July 29, Maryland State Police were notified of a chase coming out of West Virginia. Foster's white pickup truck soon crossed into Maryland traveling about 60 mph and was driving on two good tires after the other two were punctured by West Virginia State Police.

Maryland State Police officers chasing Foster began a rolling roadblock and slowed Foster to about 30 mph when he crossed into the median, Long said.

While in the median, Foster tried to drive back onto the roadway and struck Trooper 1st Class Kyle George's patrol car, and then Cpl. Richard Poffenberger's police Ford Explorer, Long said.

Poffenberger then hit Foster from behind, spinning the pickup to a stop, Long said. It took seven or eight troopers to subdue foster, and one trooper, Cpl. Wayne Wachsmuth, was injured in the struggle, he said. Foster was pepper sprayed and required treatment at Washington County Hospital, he said.

Long said police discovered he was on three medications the day of the chase, including Ambien, a prescription sleep aid, and he was lethargic and had slowed speech.

Foster's attorney, Assistant Washington County Public Defender Brian Hutchison, said Foster recently underwent neurological examinations, and the incident in question led to the man's first arrest.

"This was very out of character for this man," Hutchison said, saying Foster was a former police officer, a Korean War veteran and a mason.

Before he was sentenced, Foster only said driving is a major part of his and his wife's life, and he had a job lined up to begin paying off his debts.

Wright sentenced Foster to 18 months in jail on the two charges, but suspended the sentence, ordering five years of probation that would be transferred to Foster's home state.

Wright ordered Foster to complete his payments within the probation period, and to not operate any motor vehicle in Maryland in that time.

"As far as I'm concerned, you don't drive in Maryland," Wright said.

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