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Man sentenced in fatal crash

December 18, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Calling Matthew David Meyer an "assassin on wheels," an assistant Washington County State's Attorney argued Monday in Circuit Court that Meyer should serve the maximum sentence on two charges of negligent vehicular manslaughter.

Meyer, 24, of 11010 Sani Lane, Hagerstown, on Nov. 19 entered a no contest plea to the two charges, and to a probation violation charge that stemmed from an April 2002 drug distribution conviction.

On Oct. 23, 2002, Meyer was driving at least 70 mph in a BMW 330 on Mount Aetna Road when he crashed into a Ford Ranger, killing the driver, Gerald Eugene Dietrich, 59, and his wife, Mary Ellen Dietrich, 61.

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Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone on Wednesday sentenced Meyer to serve seven years in prison on one of the vehicular manslaughter charges and to serve four years, to run concurrently, on the probation violation.

Boone sentenced him to seven years on the second manslaughter charge, but suspended the sentence.

Boone heard arguments from Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Joseph Michael and Meyer's attorney Joshua Treem as well as statements from several of the victims' families.

Michael detailed a series of traffic violations, accidents and probation violations that were not brought to the attention of Boone or the State's Attorney's Office until this year.

Michael said Meyer's history of speed violations began days after he first received his driver's license in 1995. The most serious accident before the October 2002 crash that killed the Dietrichs was a May 2000 wreck in Pennsylvania in which Meyer was paralyzed from the chest down.

Meyer was the only one injured and has been in a wheelchair since the wreck, Michael said.

Days after Meyer was convicted on the drug charge in April 2002, Meyer was caught speeding in Pennsylvania, Michael said.

Meyer's Baltimore home detention service, Home Confinement Services, did not report that violation or several curfew violations to the State's Attorney's Office or Judge Boone, Michael said.

Treem argued that Meyer should be given special consideration on sentencing because of his disability. Treem said disabled prisoners tend to serve longer sentences because it is more difficult for them to receive good-time credits usually given for work performance.

Boone agreed disabled prisoners usually serve more time, but said he felt the need to impose a sentence longer than the four years Meyer's attorney had asked for.

"The one thing that shocks me is that ... a lot of lives have been shattered by this episode," Boone said.

Before sentencing, Meyer read a written apology to the Dietrichs' family members.

"I feel absolutely horrible for what has happened," Meyer said. "There is nothing I can do to make amends for this tragedy, but I want you to know that I'm truly sorry."

Thomas Young, Mary Dietrich's brother, spoke during the hearing on behalf of his sister. After the hearing, he said he was pleased with the outcome.

"I'm glad he got it. He's done enough," Young said.

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