Episcopal Bishop Heather Cook will be charged with manslaughter in the fatal crash that killed cyclist Thomas Palermo, Maryland’s new state’s attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced Friday morning.
The charges also include texting while driving and driving under the influence.
Cook will face charges of leaving the scene of a fatal accident; driving under the influence and causing an accident due to texting while driving. Both the manslaughter and leaving the scene charge carry a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.
A warrant will be issued for Cook’s arrest, prosecutors said.
The case is Mosby’s first high profile test after taking over the office this week, and the charges come after days of angst among supporters of the 41-year-old Palermo’s family, who questioned why Cook had not been more promptly arrested.
The collision happened Dec. 27 as Palermo was cycling through Roland Park. Church officials identified Cook as the driver of the car that struck Palermo. Cook left the scene in shock, but returned later, according to the church.
The Diocese knew that the investigation showed that Cooke’s blood alcohol level was .22, nearly three times the legal limit, and that the investigation showed that she had been texting, but honored a request by the State’s Attorney office to withhold certain details.
The church had released a detailed timeline of what they knew about the December crash that made no mention of Cook allegedly being drunk or text messaging.
Sharon J. Tillman, a spokeswoman for the Episcopal Church, said officials were aware Cook had been drinking before the accident and had been texting while driving, but police requested they withhold certain information.
“We were cooperating with police in their investigation throughout,” she said.
At a press conference, Mosby said Cook registered a .22 blood alcohol level after the crash. The legal limit in Maryland is .08.
Mosby alleged that Cook was texting, and that Palermo was in the bike lane when Cook’s vehicle veered into his lane and struck him.
As to the question of the length of the investigation, WBAL-TV reports:
Mosby said Friday that she met with Palermo’s family over the course of the investigation, which she said has been handled as any other case would be.
Posted by Andrew Gerns