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Md. Bishop Facing Manslaughter Charges After Alleged DUI Crash

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By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on January 09, 2015 2:22 PM

The second-ranking member of Maryland's Episcopal Diocese is facing criminal charges, including manslaughter, following a suspected hit-and-run DUI crash in which a man was killed.

Baltimore authorities say Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook was allegedly texting while driving when she veered off the road, hitting a bicyclist from behind, reports The Associated Press. The bicyclist, 41-year-old Tom Palermo, died from head injuries suffered in the crash. Cook reportedly fled the scene before returning 30 minutes later.

What charges is Cook now facing for the fatal crash?

Vehicular Manslaughter, Negligent Manslaughter Alleged

When reckless behavior such as driving under the influence or criminal negligence results in a person's death, a defendant may be charged with involuntary manslaughter. In cases of death caused by DUI, states typically have vehicular manslaughter statutes, although defendants may also be charged with serious crimes, such as murder. Many states also now charge motorists who cause fatal accidents by texting while driving with manslaughter under the theory of criminal negligence.

Cook is facing two manslaughter charges: felony vehicular manslaughter and criminal negligent manslaughter. Under Maryland's manslaughter laws, vehicular manslaughter while under the influence of alcohol is a felony punishable by to three years in prison, while vehicular manslaughter with criminal negligence is a misdemeanor punishable by up to three years in prison.

Also Charged With DUI, Hit-and-Run

Cook is also being charged with a number of other crimes stemming from the crash, including three counts of driving under the influence. According to police, after returning to the scene of the crash, Cook was given a breath test of her blood alcohol concentration. She reportedly blew a 0.22 percent, almost three times Maryland's legal limit. Cook has a prior conviction for drunken driving from 2010.

Cook is also charged with leaving the scene of an accident which, in an accident involving serious bodily injury or death, is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

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