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Man could see jail time for drunken crash into Md. judge's car

As expected, a man pleaded guilty to drunken driving Wednesday morning to a single charge related to his crashing a Chevy Tahoe into a car operated by a retired judge who had spared him jail time in a different drunk-driving case years earlier.

Now facing sentencing, the man's attorney said after the hearing that his client feels terrible about the crash. "He hasn't had a drink since this happened," said John Severt, attorney for Rene E. Fernandez.

The August crash injured the retired judge, Edwin Collier, 86, who now must walk with a cane, and his wife, Ellen Collier, 82, who now must use a walker.

At the hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court, Assistant State’s Attorney Paul Zmuda listed the specific injuries suffered by the Colliers as diagnosed upon their admission to Suburban Hospital.

For Ellen Collier: "Spine fractures to the C-7 and T-1. Left femur fracture. Left tibia and fibula fractures. Right acetabular (pelvis area) fractures. Right radial (forearm) fractures and multiple rib fractures."

For Edwin Collier: "Right tibia fracture and L-1 through L-3 transverse process fractures, and a right rib fracture."

As the injuries were read in court, Fernandez, wearing a suit and black-framed eyeglasses, looked visibly upset. "He knows he’s changed these people’s lives," said Severt.

The Colliers didn't attend the hearing. Montgomery County Circuit Judge John W. Debelius set sentencing for June 8.

Prosecutors have said that sentencing guidelines call for up to two years incarceration, while Fernandez is eligible for up to three.

Fernandez specifically pleaded guilty to causing a life-threatening injury while intoxicated, related to Ellen Collier’s injuries.

Severt said that Fernandez completed 26 weeks of alcohol treatment and regularly attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. He also has preformed 180 hours of volunteer work, which has included cleaning a church that received flood damage from the winter's heavy snowstorms.

A Montgomery County police accident report painted a different picture of Fernandez at the Aug. 21 crash scene, just before he was tested at a blood alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit.

"Fernandez seemed unconcerned about the accident, stating several times that 'It was only an accident,' and never once asked about the condition of the occupants of the other car," the report states.

-- Dan Morse

By Dan Morse  |  April 14, 2010; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  Dan Morse , From the Courthouse , Montgomery  
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Well isn't that ironic. These judges have no accountability at all. I bet that judge thinks differently about the break he gave him prior. If he had sent him to jail maybe his wife wouldn't have been hurt now. If someone else would have been hit he wouldn't have cared. Most judges believe that they are just below GOD!!!!

Posted by: Ironic1 | April 14, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Ironic1 -- It is ironic. But I don't think it's at all fair to say retired Judge Collier "wouldn't have cared" if the crash had happened to someone else. -- Dan Morse

Posted by: Dan Morse | April 14, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

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