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Man gets 15-year sentence in racing deaths

The driver who admitted participating in an illegal street race that killed eight people two years ago on Accokeek was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in prison.

Darren J. Bullock, 22, read a brief statement in which he accepted responsibility for his actions. Circuit Court Judge Michael P. Whalen then imposed the sentence, which was part of a plea deal.

"I understand the great pain the accident has caused and I accept responsibility for my actions," said Bullock, of Waldorf.

Whalen said he knew Bullock did not intend to kill anyone. "But by your extremely reckless and wanton conduct, you struck and killed eight men, " Whalen said.

Several relatives and friends of Bullock's sobbed openly as sheriff's deputies handcuffed him and led him out of the courtroom.

In January, Bullock pleaded guilty to eight counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the accident, which occurred on Route 210 shortly before 3 a.m. on Feb. 16, 2008. According to prosecutors, Bullock, in a white Ford Crown Victoria, was racing Tavon Taylor when he smashed into a group of people who had wandered onto the road after watching the start of a separate illegal street race.

On Monday, a jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on the eight counts of vehicular manslaughter charged against Taylor. The jury convicted Taylor of two traffic offenses. Prosecutors said they will re-try Taylor,20, on the manslaughter counts; Whalen today scheduled that trial for Oct. 18.

Taylor's sentencing on the lesser charges was postponed until Oct. 18.

Taylor was a prime player in one of the worst car crashes in Maryland history. It made headlines nationally and drew attention to the secretive world of illegal street racing, a subculture that has thrived for decades in parts of the Washington area.

According to prosecutors, two races were held the night of the crash. After the first race, dozens of people wandered onto Route 210 not knowing about the second race. Bullock and Taylor, racing northbound on the same road, tore into the crowd, according to prosecutors.

Bullock’s Crown Victoria slammed into drag race spectators, with bodies and body parts flying over the speeding vehicle, according to state witnesses in the Taylor trial. The front of Bullock’s car was severely damaged, and parts of it were covered in blood from the victims.

Seconds after Bullock’s vehicle slammed into the crowd, the green Mercury Marquis driven by Taylor arrived, according to prosecutors.

The Taylor trial began in the first week of February and lasted more than a month. It was suspended for a week in mid-February because of the massive snowstorms that paralyzed much of the Washington region and shut down the courthouse for several days.

At the outset of Taylor’s trial, Ivey said in his opening statement that Taylor’s car did not hit any of the victims. Ivey said Taylor nonetheless shares responsibility for the deaths because he participated in the race with Bullock.

In their closing arguments, Ivey and Assistant State’s Attorney Wesley Adams said evidence showed that Taylor had in fact struck two victims who had already been knocked to the ground.

A surveillance camera from a nearby gun shop captured Bullock’s Crown Victoria and Taylor’s Mercury Marquis traveling at 102 mph, seconds before the crash, prosecutors said. Footage from the camera was submitted to the jury as part of the state’s evidence against Taylor.

Taylor did not testify in his own defense. In his closing argument,Taylor’s defense attorney, J. Wyndal Gordon, said prosecutors had presented no evidence showing Taylor’s car had struck any of the victims.

Prosecutors also presented as evidence a statement signed by Taylor in which he admitted to police that he was racing Bullock.

Gordon said the statement was fabricated by police, who he said targeted Taylor because they thought he was naive.

-- Ruben Castaneda

By Washington Post editors  |  March 2, 2010; 3:02 PM ET
Categories:  From the Courthouse , Pr. George's , Ruben Castaneda  
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Wow! This is almost approaching Two Years per dead person, not to mention the maimed.

Posted by: Tupac_Goldstein | March 2, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

15 years is a fairly harsh sentence given the circumstances. 5 years would understandable for a lapse of judgment, driving that fast which resulted in the deaths of 8 people. The driver had a responsibility to keep his speed reasonable. The people that ended up getting ran down plain and simple should not have been in the middle of a Highway in the middle of the night. They had a responsibility to stay out off the highway.

Posted by: mrmaye | March 2, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Honestly, who races Crown Vic'

Next up tricycles!

Posted by: FusilliJerry1 | March 2, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

He's paying for his own stupidity for drag racing on a dark highway, and that's fine, he should. But they tacked on years for the stupidity of 8 people who had no business standing in the middle of a highway anyway in the middle of the night. What a shame.

Posted by: sjcsando | March 2, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Points to ponder: Is it legal for pedestrians to stand in the middle of a highway at 3:00 am to observe an illegal drag race? If there is blame to be shared, the spectators along with the drivers should share the blame.

Posted by: popebrown | March 2, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Now that the law punishes a person for the stupidity of others what else can we expect. A decent universal health care system? Ha! Note to parents: Please teach yours kids not to be in the middle of a dark highway in the middle f the night probably high and or drunk watching a drag race. Spectators get killed at Nascar and there is a protective barrier there. Sheesh!

Posted by: mossmillennium | March 2, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

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