DWI HIT PARADE / Prosecutor Tony Covington’s Wonderland Judiciary Failed to Deliver Justice
for Ernest Young
Arthur Edelen Still Not in Prison
UPDATE: Edelen finally behind bars!
NEWS & COMMENTARY
By Ken Rossignol
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY
When Alice in Wonderland was written many years ago, the “Wonderland” could easily have been the Maryland Judiciary, as nothing is ever as it seems. Court records are touted as being accessible to the public, but records are just skimmed, often full of erroneous information and typos and worse of all – contains deliberately deceptive notes on the online case file. Detailed information is available only to prosecutors and attorneys with the public blocked entirely from accessing records which are accessible only by visiting the clerk of the court office in each of Maryland’s twenty-three counties and the City of Baltimore.
In the case of two-time convicted drunk driver Arthur Christopher Edelen, of Hughesville, who killed Ernest Young III in March of 2016, the legal system has been manipulated by a skilled defense attorney, Monte D. Montgomery Jr., of Upper Marlboro, and an incompetent Charles County States Attorney, Anthony Covington. The trip through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole was guided by a goosey Circuit Court Judge, Jay West.
After being charged with the DWI death of Young, Edelen’s support system of friends, in and out of the system, went to work – even trying to get the victim’s family to go easy on him, telling them that he had a “story.” Edelen’s “story” was that he suffered a serious burn many years ago and therefore the rest of the world must suffer his criminal behavior. That may not be exactly how the social-welfare society of the Charles County network of enablers phrased it, but the effect is the same.
Edelen hit the road in a drunken stupor on March 24, 2016, and slammed into a motorcycle operated by Young, who was on his way home. His wife, Dr. Alisia Madden-Young was just about to leave her office in White Plains, and she received a call from her husband minutes before he was struck by Edelen on Md. Rt. 5. He wanted to know if she needed anything from a store and wanted to meet him there. She replied that she would wrap things up in the office and then meet him at home.
The next time she saw him was a few hours later when she arrived at a trauma center, where she drove herself after midnight when a trooper came to her door to inform her of where her husband had been flown by a Maryland State Police helicopter in critical condition. Not too many hours after she arrived to see her husband Ernest fight for his life, she said goodbye as life itself faded from him forever.
With two children in college and her private practice demands constant, physician friends arrived to fill in for her appointments and see her patients as she attempted to weave back together with her broken life. A woman who is filled with spirit, hope and a big heart, Dr. Madden-Young did her best to understand what it was like to be a victim that the Maryland Justice system spurns.
Indeed, it was the tireless efforts of another crime victim, Roberta Roper, and her late husband, that forced, at every step of the process, cajoled, begged, pleaded and pushed the legislative mannequins who are perennially elected to seats in the Maryland General Assembly to pass meaningful victim’s rights.
A drunk driving legal eagle, Del. Joseph Vallario, (D., P.G.), first elected to the House of Delegates in 1974, has made a career of blocking victims rights by bottling up tougher drunk driving laws in Maryland in the Judiciary Committee, of which he has been chairman since 1993.
An ethics complaint against Vallario in 2013 was sparked by the mother of a woman who was killed by a negligent driver as told in this excerpt of a Washington Post story by John Wagner on Aug. 3, 2013:
Kenniss Henry told the lawmaker all the horrible details about her daughter’s death: How Natasha Pettigrew headed out before sunrise on a fall morning for a bike ride, part of her triathlon training. How the SUV driver who hit her told police she kept on going because she thought she had hit a deer.
How at the hospital that day in September 2010 her daughter’s eyes were “stitched and stapled.” That the 30-year-old law student’s teeth were broken, her ribs shattered, her lung collapsed. That one of her hands was literally “a bag of bones.” And that surgeons were preparing to drill into her skull to see if they could detect any brain activity.
After her daughter died, prosecutors told Henry that they would try to build a criminal case against the driver, but because of Maryland’s lax vehicular manslaughter laws, the charges would probably not be severe.
That’s why Henry was in Annapolis, telling her story to Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Vallario (D-Prince George’s), who is also a criminal defense attorney, had for years stood in the way of bills aimed at making it easier for prosecutors to get jail time for negligent drivers, arguing they criminalized what were often accidents. At a time “of unspeakable grief,” Henry was trying to change his mind — not for her daughter’s case, but for those like it in the future.
Weeks later, Henry almost fainted, she said, when prosecutors told her who was representing the driver who killed her daughter: Vallario’s son, who operates out of his father’s law office in Suitland.
Del. Vallario told The Post that he operated a law practice separate from that of his son, though phone listings, letterhead and other forms of advertising were cited by The Post as evidence that Vallario was not quite candid. Vallario denied having any contact with his attorney son about the case.
Those same weak Maryland laws that were present in 2013 were repeatedly cited to Dr. Madden-Young and in published reports by Charles County States Attorney Anthony Covington as a reason that he thought Edelen may not get any jail time. He warned that the family of Young should be prepared to see his killer get off without any significant sentence. It’s all the fault of the General Assembly, Covington told the Young family.
Covington’s record at dropping dozens of DWI cases, allowing low or no fines or jail time and sending repeat drunk drivers sailing out of the courtroom free as a bird has been documented
Covington’s record at dropping dozens of DWI cases, allowing low or no fines or jail time and sending repeat drunk drivers sailing out of the courtroom free as a bird has been documented by THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY, of DWI drivers chosen at random from Charles County arrest records. Those dispositions are solely at the discretion of the prosecutor, and he is responsible, not the General Assembly. Covington either lacks the skills needed to successfully prosecute DWI offenders, lacks the backbone or perhaps is just in cahoots with them. Who knows? Covington did tell the Young family that his own father was killed by a drunk driver.
“Noah’s Law,” passed by the Maryland General Assembly, which went into effect on Oct. 1, 2016, provided a new weapon to punish drunk drivers. The bill passed after significant lobbying by many in law enforcement, including Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger. Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta was killed by a repeat offender drunk driver as the officer was conducting a DUI traffic stop on the Beltway.
DRUNKEN DRIVING-IGNITION INTERLOCK
From THE WASHINGTON TIMES: All drivers convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol will have to blow into ignition devices to prove they haven’t drunk too much before their cars start. Ignition interlock devices will have to be installed for six months in the vehicle of anyone who blows the legal limit of .08 in a breath test, or else the person’s license would be suspended for six months. A driver who refuses a breath test would have to use the device for nine months or accept a nine-month suspension. It’s known as “Noah’s Law” after 23-year-old police officer Noah Leotta, who was struck and killed by a drunk driver at a sobriety checkpoint.
The maximum jail sentence for people convicted of vehicular manslaughter after previous convictions of driving under the influence or while impaired by alcohol or drugs increases from five years to 15 years, with fines rising to $15,000.
Since “Noah’s Law” went into effect after Edelen killed Ernest Young, the law is not applied retroactively and wasn’t an option for Covington to push for or for Judge West to consider in sentencing. In that respect, Covington was right. Covington failed to provide any comment on this case to THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY.
In September of 2017, Edelen entered a guilty plea to negligent homicide with an auto while under the influence. Judge West was supposed to listen to the victim impact statements. According to the Young family, the judge suddenly leaped from the bench and said he couldn’t listen to the statements as he knew everyone in the room. In cases of where a Judge is conflicted, he or she is supposed to recuse themselves and let another Judge sit on a case, which was his option to do a year earlier.
Finally, on Nov. 14, 2017, the defendant and the victims appeared for sentencing, and Arthur Christopher Edelen was sentenced to three and one-half years in prison.
Court records show a commitment record was issued on Nov. 16, 2017.
The defense attorney had argued in court for a simple two-year sentence to be served at home with an ankle bracelet due to Edelen’s medical condition where a port in his chest needed to be flushed out by medical technicians every two to three weeks. Judge West pointed out that the prison system maintained excellent medical care for inmates and that excuse would not keep Edelen from doing his time behind bars.
Dr. Madden-Young said that at that point the Judge refused such a sentence, pointing out that Edelen had killed a man. The Assistant States Attorney reiterated that this was Edelen’s second DUI conviction. The sentencing was the first time Ernest Young’s daughter had been present for the many court appearances, and her mother said she was reduced to tears and completely broke down in the courtroom.
Edelen, apparently forgetting his prior boasting of being able to beat this case and never go to jail, put on a different act in the courtroom. He issued an apology for what he had done in taking Ernest Young’s life and approached Dr. Madden-Young and asked for a hug. Instead of clocking him and sending him reeling across the courtroom, Dr. Madden-Young allowed him to give her a hug, explaining that she was a Christian.
Several Pope’s had armies to ward off infidels, and to this day an immense wall surrounds Vatican City to protect the Pope. She should have whacked the jerk.
Now, the White Rabbit, joined by the Mad Hatter, poked their heads out of the hole.
Judge West allowed a special condition to the sentence he gave Edelen, a condition that does not appear in the court record.
In addition to releasing the measly $5,000 bond which has kept Edelen free since he killed Ernest Young, he also allowed that deputies wouldn’t immediately place Edelen in handcuffs and drive him to the Maryland prison. That decision is why Edelen couldn’t be located in the inmate locator of the Department of Corrections or even in the Charles County Jail.
Where was Edelen?
Had he escaped?
Judge West allowed Edelen to postpone his day of entry into prison by three weeks.
Ernest Young was only given forty-eight hours to struggle to live after he was creamed by dipsy, boozing, and tanked Edelen.
Edelen had been bragging around Hughesville that he would never go to jail.
He was right.
He is still not in jail as he won’t have to turn himself in until Dec. 8, 2017 – the Judge’s orders.