Man gets one-year sentence in fatal hit-and-run

December 06, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Martinsburg man charged in a fatal hit-and-run a week before Christmas last year was sentenced Monday to spend a year in prison, but maintained to the judge that he never saw the man he hit with his car.

Gregory L. White, 48, said hitting and killing Michael Briden, 45, on Dec. 18, 2004, continues to affect him.

"I live with this every day of my life. This thing haunts me," White said before he was sentenced.

In September, White entered an Alford plea to a charge of one count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death. Under an Alford plea, the defendant does not admit guilt but believes the state has enough evidence to obtain a conviction.

None of Briden's family members attended the hearing. Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said Briden's family was not seeking restitution and that his family intends to pursue a civil lawsuit against White.


White said that on the dark December night he got out of his car, a 1996 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, after he realized he hit something, but did not search thoroughly around his car. Had he seen Briden, he would have assisted him or taken him to the hospital, White said.

Briden was hit on Dry Run Road near City Hospital after midnight as he was walking home from his job at the Lowe's store in Martinsburg. White was driving home from the Dark Horse Lounge, a bar in Martinsburg, according to court documents. Both men lived at Martins Landing, an apartment complex across from the hospital.

White's car had damage to its hood and a shattered windshield on the passenger side. Blood on the windshield was matched to Briden's DNA, Games-Neely has said.

Briden was hit from behind and sustained severe injuries, police have said.

"I did not intend to hit this man, let alone take his life," White said, adding moments later, "I would trade my own life to bring this man back."

Several hours after hitting Briden, White went to City Hospital and asked whether anyone had been hit by a car. After police were summoned to the hospital in response to White's query, he told investigators that he first thought he had hit a deer, but then changed his story and said he saw a person on his windshield, Circuit Judge David Sanders said during the hearing.

Sanders also noted that White waited several hours before coming forward.

A sentence of up to three years in prison was possible, but Sanders prefaced his one-year sentence judgment by noting the impetus for the wreck seemed to be an accident and that one year is the sentence for a similar charge of involuntary manslaughter.

After the sentence was announced, White asked the judge how the appeal process works. Sanders replied that White must file a notice of intent to appeal within one month and must file the appeal within four months.

White's attorneys asked that White not be forced to begin serving his sentence until after the holidays, noting he has a family and personal matters to settle.

Because White has always appeared in court for his hearings, Games-Neely said she did not oppose giving him a few days to settle his affairs.

Sanders gave White a week. He must report to Eastern Regional Jail to begin serving his sentence by 5 p.m. Dec. 12.

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