Defendant says he fell asleep at the wheel due to lack of sleep
LA PLATA, Md. (Sept. 25, 2013)—Today a Charles County jury convicted Yuri Marie-Francois Vielot, Jr., of Ft. Washington, on two counts of Vehicular Manslaughter for causing the death of two Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) contractors in the autumn of 2010.
In the early afternoon hours of October 21, 2010, Marlon Lorenzo and Erick Alvarado were working for an SHA contractor cutting grass and collecting trash in the median of Berry Road (MD 228) just east of the intersection with Bensville Road (MD 229). The two men, along with one of their co-workers, were walking in the median when a 2004 Volkswagen SUV operated by the Defendant, Yuri Marie-Francois Vielot, Jr., veered from the westbound lanes of Berry Road onto the median, collided with a sign, and then ran into the victims, throwing them toward the opposing lanes of travel. Witnesses to the collision reported seeing an explosion, flying debris, and two bodies landing in the roadway. Both men were pronounced dead on the scene. Their co-worker, Leonel Berganza, was knocked to the ground, but survived the crash.
Mr. Berganza testified during the trial, giving his account of the crash, describing it as a day he will never forget, the day he lost his best friends. One witness reported seeing the Defendant's vehicle swerving back and forth into her lane for approximately half a mile to a mile prior to the SUV leaving the road and striking Mr. Lorenzo and Mr. Alvarado. After the crash, the Defendant was interviewed by members of the Maryland State Police. The Defendant stated that he had worked all night, had only got 2 hours of sleep, and was returning from Waldorf to Ft. Washington to bring his fiancée lunch when he fell asleep behind the wheel.
Assistant State's Attorney, Francis Granados, pointed out that the Defendant was driving after only getting 2 hours of sleep in the 18 and a half hours prior to the crash. The Defendant hadn't had anything to eat or drink since before 7:00 a.m. Granados argued that the Defendant had ample time during the drive from Ft. Washington to Waldorf and back to notice that he was too tired to drive. Of key importance was the fact that the Defendant was swerving back and forth into other lanes of travel for half a mile to a mile prior to falling asleep and crashing his SUV. This gave the Defendant ample opportunity to notice that he was too tired to drive and to stop his car. Granados also alerted the jury that the Defendant did not have a driver's license. He only had a learner's permit and was driving alone. Granados reminded the jury that the case had nothing to do with whether the Defendant is a good family man. "We all know that good people are capable of bad driving." He implored the jury to not let emotion cloud their judgment and to decide the case solely on the evidence.
"These two men would still be here if this defendant had remembered how dangerous of an activity that driving a car is", said State's Attorney Tony Covington. "I hope everyone understands that as a driver you must take responsibility for being in the right condition to drive. If you aren't and you hurt somebody you will be held accountable. Though we all too often take it for granted because we do it so often, driving a 2000 pound machine is a very dangerous and risky activity. If you are driving, don't drink, don't drug, don't text, don't race, and don't speed. And, for goodness sake, make sure you've had enough rest before you get behind the wheel. All of these things are very simple. If the defendant had properly rested, he wouldn't be facing jail time and the two families of these dead men wouldn't be heart broken. At sentencing we certainly will be asking the Court to give the Defendant plenty of time in jail so he can reflect on that."
The jury deliberated for just over an hour before returning guilty verdicts on both counts. Sentencing has been scheduled for November 7, 2013 before Judge Amy J. Bragunier of the Charles County Circuit Court. The defendant faces up to twenty years of incarceration.
Source: Office of the State's Attorney for Charles County