A woman whose car plowed into a Maryland restaurant in a crash that left a Boy Scout commissioner dead received a 12-month jail term Friday.
Vernelle Robinson, 56, was convicted earlier this year of manslaughter, reckless driving, negligent driving and speeding.
The crash at Babe’s Boys Tavern in Upper Marlboro, Md., injured almost a dozen people and killed Isiah Pugh. The 73-year-old, who was in the restaurant for a meeting of local Boy Scout leaders, died in the hospital a week after the Oct. 24, 2017, crash.
Robinson received a three-year sentence, with all but 12 months suspended.
Prosecutors had argued that Robinson — whom they said was excited to go to cash a winning lottery ticket — flew around a curve at more than twice the posted advised speed and lost control of her car. The vehicle burst through the restaurant wall going at least 75 mph, according to trial evidence.
During her three-day trial in March in Prince George’s County, Robinson and her attorneys said that her Toyota sedan accelerated unexpectedly and went out of control. The defense cited several mass recalls Toyota issued concerning floor mats and gas pedals.
“I kind of panicked and my car went through there,” Robinson told television reporters outside the restaurant shortly after the crash.
But prosecutors said none of the vehicle flaws cited by the defense applied to Robinson’s car at the time of the crash. They either had been fixed by a previous owner or were related to a different model, prosecutors said.
Speed was the issue, prosecutors maintained.
“Vernelle Robinson was driving too fast and trying to brake too late,” Assistant State’s Attorney Franklin Shelton said.
The restaurant near the county courthouse in Upper Marlboro is popular with police officers, lawyers and judges. C. Philip Nichols Jr., a retired judge on the Seventh Circuit Court for Prince George’s County and chairman of the Boy Scout district Pugh managed, was also in the restaurant with Pugh.
Witnesses who testified at trial recalled the explosion of the car bursting through the wall.
Robinson's attorney William F. Renahan said she was sentenced to one year in Prince George's County detention center and is not allowed to drive for five years.
The judge found that Robinson didn't intend to hurt anyone but had to balance the fact that someone died in the crash, Renahan said.
Renahan said he plans to file an appeal.