"It's something I'll always have to live with. I know I had to be punished. That's justice. But I'll never forget - not only because of my own injuries, but because a girl - the same age as my own daughter - died."
Andrew Brown sat yesterday on a metal bench in a holding room at the Montgomery County Courthouse. He had just been sentenced to a year in jail for the auto manslaughter of a 24-year-old Annapolis woman last March.
According to the police report on the incident, Brown was driving while intoxicated when the accident occurred. He had, testimony showed, been driving the wrong way on the Capital Beltway near the Georgia Avenue exit at 2:15 a.m. on March 2 when he collided head on with the car driven by Kimberly Fewer Webb.
Webb, a waitress, was pronounced dead at the shock trauma unit in Baltimer, according to officials.
Brown, still suffering from injuries sustained during the accident, hobbled into court on crutches yesterday to receive his sentence from Judge John F. McAuliffe. The judge gave Brown a three-year sentence and then suspended two years of it.
"This is the lightest sentence the court can conceivably give you and still be carrying out its responsbility to the other members of society," the judge said.
As a result of the sentence imposed by Judge McAuliffe, Brown, who is to serve his time in the Montgomery County Detention Center, will be eligible for parole in three months.
"I perceive you to be a good man and not a bad man," said Judge McAuliffe in explaining to Brown his reasons for the light sentence. Then, as Brown was being led away to begin serving his sentence, Judge McAuliffe, said, "Good luck to you, Mr. Brown."
Brown, a Silver Spring resident, had faced a maximum of three years in jail and a $1,000 fine after he pleaded guilty last month to manslaughter by auto. He was ordered to participate in an alcoholism rehabilitation program in addition to serving a minimum of three months.
A slightly built 45-year-old man with a wrinkled face and a crew-cut, Brown recalled yesterday what happened on the night the accident occurred.
He said that he and two other salesmen from the Calvert Toyota auto dealership, where Brown was at the time sales manager, had been at the Charles Town Raceway in West Virginia to celebrate a good month of sales. On the way to the track, he said, he and another salesman shared a six-pack of beer and then he "had two or three drinks at dinner."
It was after he had dropped off his friends that the accident occurred, he said. In it, he suffered a broken leg, nose, pelvis and arm and both were crushed, he said.
"I don't think I have a drinking problem," Brown asserted yesterday. "Sure, I'll take a drink at lunch, but I can take it or leave it."
Brown said he decided to plead guilty to the auto manslaughter charge because he expected "mercy" in return from the judge. "I guess I did get mercy, but I was hoping not to have to go to jail," he said. In return for the plea bargain, the state declined to make a recommendation to the judge as to what the length of Brown's sentence should be, according to Assistant State's Attorney De-Lawrence Beard.
"If the judge had given me 100 years, it still wouldn't take away what's inside of me, what I have to live with every day," said Brown.