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Hagerstown man faces 3 years in prison after pleading guilty in fatal crash

Cory Scott Kuczynski admitted to driving under the influence and failing to stop immediately at the scene of an accident

April 27, 2011|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

A Hagerstown man faces up to three years in prison after pleading guilty Wednesday in Washington County Circuit Court to driving under the influence and failing to stop immediately at the scene of an accident involving serious bodily injury in a 2010 fatal crash near Sharpsburg.

Visiting Judge Gary Leasure ordered a presentence investigation and set June 10 as the sentencing date for Cory Scott Kuczynski, 26, of 17544 Gay St.

Kuczynski, convicted in 2009 of driving while intoxicated in New York, faces up to two years in prison for driving under the influence  and one year for leaving the scene of the accident.

 Danielle Paikin of Newark, Del., was killed in the three-car wreck, and Joseph and Lauran Dwyer, both of Clear Spring, were injured.

In exchange for Kuczynski's plea, Deputy State's Attorney Steven Kessell said two counts of causing life-threatening injuries while driving under the influence as well as several other criminal charges would be dismissed, Kessell told Leasure.

Kuczynski was not charged with Paikin's death because prosecutors believed they could not prove that he was responsible, Kessell said after the plea hearing in the Hagerstown courtroom.

"If the matter had gone to trial, we could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she died as a result of the impact of his vehicle," Kessell said.

"I think it's extremely appropriate given the circumstances," defense attorney D. Benson Thompson III said after the hearing.

He said the issue was whether Kuczynski could have avoided the crash if he was not legally intoxicated, and the Maryland State Police accident investigator was "not sure if a sober person could have avoided the collision."

At the time Kuczynski's blood-alcohol level was tested, he was at the legal limit of intoxication and did leave the scene of the crash, Thompson said.

"We'll wait for sentencing," Tim Dwyer said after the hearing when asked if he or his sons Lauran and Joseph had any comment.

Shortly after 1 a.m. on May 6, 2010, a 1982 Dodge Diplomat driven by William J. Turner of Sharpsburg, crossed the center line of Md. 65 near Dunker Church Road and collided almost head-on with a 1993 Buick Century driven by Lauran Dwyer, according to the bill of particulars for the case.

Shortly thereafter, a northbound 2003 Nissan Maxima driven by Kuczynski struck the passenger side of the Buick, which was in the road. The impact pushed the Buick 29 feet, pinning Joseph Dwyer beneath it and causing him serious head, torso and leg injuries, the documents said.

Paikin, the front-seat passenger, was pinned in the Buick, Kessell said during the hearing.

Kuczynski backed up and attempted a U-turn, but his car went only a short distance before stopping, the documents said. Turner knew Kuczynski and saw him get out of the Nissan and "run up a hill and into the woods," the documents said.

Police found Kuczynski at his parents' Williamsport home shortly after 3 a.m., the documents said. He told police he had one glass of wine at about 11:30 p.m. while working at the Press Room, a restaurant in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and left at about 1 a.m.,  the documents said.

Kuczynski told police he left the scene because he was scared. He performed field sobriety tests and took a Breathalyzer test before having his blood-alcohol level tested at Washington County Hospital at 4:22 a.m., the documents said.

At that time, more than three hours after the crash, Kuczynski had a blood- alcohol level of 0.08 percent, the legal limit for intoxication.

Kessell told Leasure the state is asking for two years of incarceration, with Thompson being allowed to argue for a more lenient sentence.

Leasure, an Allegany County judge, was brought in to hear the plea because Kuczynski's father is an attorney in Washington County and the Dwyers are nephews to Circuit Court Judge Daniel P. Dwyer.

Turner, 21, was charged with negligent driving and failing to drive to the right of center in the accident, Kessell said.

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