Charges pending against driver in crash that killed woman, injured U.S. soccer player Charlie Davies

By Spencer Hsu and Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, November 12, 2010; 9:56 PM

Federal prosecutors disclosed Friday that felony charges are pending against a woman who drove the car in which a woman was killed and U.S. soccer star Charlie Davies was injured in an early-morning accident on the George Washington Memorial Parkway in October 2009.

Maria Alejandra Espinoza, of Clarksville, is expected to be charged at a plea hearing set for Tuesday on charges of involuntary manslaughter and maiming while driving while intoxicated, said a spokesman for Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Espinoza, who is 22 or 23 years old, according to court documents, was not previously named in connection with the one-car crash in Arlington, which claimed the life of Ashley J. Roberta, 22, of Phoenix, Md. Davies, one of American soccer's most promising young players, suffered fractures to his right leg, a dislocated elbow and a lacerated bladder.

After several operations and months of rehabilitation, the former Boston College forward rejoined his French club, Sochaux, last spring. However, he did not make enough progress to warrant consideration for the U.S. World Cup squad and has yet to play for Sochaux's first team this season.

In a statement, Davies's attorney, Jon Pels of Bethesda, said: "Charlie Davies has left this matter in the capable hands of the U.S. Attorney's office. He will be happy to comment once this matter concludes and the U.S. Attorney authorizes him to do so."

Peter D. Greenspun, a prominent Fairfax trial lawyer listed in court documents as Espinoza's attorney, was in a client conference and was not immediately available for comment, his office said.

MacBride spokesman Peter Carr confirmed that Espinoza was scheduled to appear at a plea hearing at 10 a.m. Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton in Alexandria.

Felony involuntary manslaughter and maiming while drunk carry a maximum prison sentence of eight years and five years on conviction, respectively, although federal sentencing guidelines likely would result in a less-severe punishment. A criminal case cover sheet for Espinoza listing the charges was dated Tuesday and entered late Wednesday into court records.

Police have said that three people were inside a 2004 Infiniti FX35 traveling southbound on the parkway near Memorial Bridge around 2:30 a.m. on Oct. 13, 2009, when it struck a metal guardrail over the Boundary Channel. The impact nearly sheared the vehicle in half, and rescue workers found Roberta near the car and pulled Davies from the wreckage.

Court papers made public last December said an unnamed driver, who suffered minor injuries, told police she had consumed alcohol before the accident. A U.S. Park Police detective said in an affidavit that the three victims were seen together an hour earlier at a District establishment that serves alcohol. The detective said Espinoza told officers she was adjusting the GPS unit in the car, registered to her mother, when Roberta yelled, "Watch out!" and the car swerved into the guard rail.

Police found a 113-foot tire rut in a grassy area leading to the guardrail and no evidence of braking, Det. Scott Powers wrote, and investigators believed the car was going faster than the 40-mph speed limit.

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