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Bishop Cook to be charged with manslaughter and DUI by Maryland state’s attorney

Bishop Cook to be charged with manslaughter and DUI by Maryland state’s attorney

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.

Baltimore Sun:

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


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Ann Fontaine

Good reporting by Episcopal News Service and Mary Frances Schjonberg. Keeping a transparent church

Jay Croft

Mr. Woodrum, a defense fund for Bishop Cook?

She won’t get a penny from me.

Richard Burris

It is not just the Diocese of Maryland that needs to look at its processes, nor just the Episcopal Church. Too often bodies delegate their responsibility to a committee and then fail to hold the committee accountable. This has resulted in many a bad election, call, appointment, etc. Ultimately the problem is us-not them. We are the only ones that can insist that the system be fixed, to the extent it can. We can only hope and pray that this is some of the good that can come from such a terrible tragedy.

Henry Rector

I am at a loss to understand the diocesan search committee’s decision to withhold information concerning Bishop Cook’s 2010 arrest from the voting assembly that selected her. The details of this incident — which was covered by local media at the time — clearly indicate a state of extreme inebriation. She was driving on three wheels and had vomit on her clothing. The presence of illegal drugs in the car is another issue. How could this be deemed a one-time aberration and not evidence of a very serious ongoing substance abuse problem? While addiction compels a compassionate response, it should be considered very carefully in selection of church leaders.

What other impediments to suitability could be concealed from a voting assembly on the grounds of confidentiality, compassion, or forgiveness? Domestic violence? Chronic infidelity?

As the Diocese of Maryland struggles to cope with this senseless tragedy, which may well result in the incarceration of its Suffragan Bishop, it also needs to take a hard look at how it selects its leaders. A church that does not hold its leaders to the highest standards simply does not take itself seriously.

Paul Woodrum

How about some prayers, some compassion, and a defense fund for Bishop Cook? Despite what looks like the “facts,” Burris is right; she is innocent until proven guilty and it is the job of our justice system, as well as our Christian faith, to assure no one is falsely accused, as too many have been, nor judged guilty until all the facts are weighed in a court of law and not that of public opinion. I wish I could say Title IV of the Canons is as cautious and transparent as the civil system of justice. It is not, but that’s another issue, one I hope will be taken up at General Convention. It’s ironic to feel like the devil’s advocate for praying for mercy on everyone caught up in either system.

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