The 2018 crash killed Monica Adams Carlson, 61, and her mother, Cora Louise Adams, 85, who were hit about 9:40 p.m. Dec. 19 as they crossed Pennsylvania Avenue near the National Archives and Navy Memorial.
Carlson was the mayor of Skagway, Alaska; Adams, who lived in Elbe, Wash., ran a hamburger stand for tourists and hikers at Mount Rainier. The women had traveled to Washington to visit the White House and see Christmas decorations.
James, who was a driver for Eyre Bus, Tour & Travel, was driving north on Seventh Street NW that night. When he got into the left-turn lane at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue NW, he ignored a red arrow prohibiting a left turn, Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward O’Connell said in court. James steered onto Pennsylvania Avenue, where the two women, who had a pedestrian walk signal, had just stepped off the sidewalk. Both women were hit and later died of traumatic injuries.
What remained unclear, the judge said, was the reason James made that fateful left turn. At the time of his arrest, authorities said a video from inside the bus showed James reaching for a cellphone at the time of the accident.
James’s attorney, Todd Baldwin, played a video in court that showed that James had already made the turn before the phone began ringing. The video, Baldwin pointed out, also showed James silencing the phone, not answering it. Baldwin also argued that the intersection was poorly lit.
“I am so sorry. I made a tragic mistake that night,” James said as a courtroom clerk handed him a box of tissues that he used to wipe his tears. James said he had the names of the victims tattooed on his chest above his heart. “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about them.”
The judge allowed James to return home to Baltimore with his family but ordered him to turn himself into authorities March 19.
After the hearing, Robert Carlson, Monica Adams Carlson’s husband, declined to comment on the sentencing. But Carlson did say more needs to be done about the city’s distracted driver laws.