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Motion claims comment by AG official contradicts arguments during appeal

Lawyer for truck driver in multiple fatality crash asks for new hearing

By Stephen Betts | Feb 10, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts Randall Weddle, right, is shown at his sentencing hearing in March 2018. Also pictured are prosecutor Jeffrey Baroody, left, and defense attorney Jeremy Pratt.

Rockland — The attorney for a Virginia truck driver serving a 25-year prison term for a 2016 crash that killed two Knox County residents is asking for a hearing, saying a recent comment by an official in the Maine Attorney General's Office shows that the blood test taken from his client should have been excluded from trial.

Attorney Jeremy Pratt of Camden filed a motion Feb. 10 in the Knox County court in the case of 57-year-old Randall Junior Weddle.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled Jan. 28 that a state law that requires drivers in fatal crashes -- or crashes where a fatality is likely -- to submit to blood tests without probable cause is unconstitutional.

But the justices of the State Law Court also ruled that in the Weddle case, the Knox County Sheriff's officer acted in good faith in directing that a blood sample be taken from the driver prior to having probable cause or a warrant. The court stated, however, that no further good faith exceptions would be granted.

In Pratt's motion, he notes that Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber was quoted in a BDN article after the Jan. 28 ruling that he expected the state law would eventually be overturned because of a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision in another state.

Macomber was quoted as saying that he created an electronic warrant request form that officers could use at the scene of a fatal crash to show there was probable cause.

"If this quotation is correct it directly contradicts the argument that the State made to the Law Court regarding the good faith exception and would eliminate the good faith exception that the Law Court relied upon," Pratt stated in his motion.

Pratt is asking the court for a hearing so he can question Macomber and former District Attorney Jonathan Liberman and former Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Baroody. Liberman and Baroody prosecuted Weddle.

The Maine Attorney General's Office issued the following statement on Tuesday.

"The Law Court determined “that the officer who ordered Weddle’s blood draw acted in good faith reliance on a statute blessed as constitutional as recently as 2007.” An officer cannot be expected to second guess what may or may not later be declared unconstitutional. At the time of the fatal accident, the statute was in full force and effect, regardless of any prosecutor’s concerns of whether it would later be declared unconstitutional. For this reason, the Court accurately held that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applies to the limited facts of this case."

Weddle was convicted by a Knox County jury in 2018 on two counts of manslaughter, three counts of aggravated operating under the influence, two counts of driving to endanger and eight counts of various trucking rule violations. Those violations included false record-keeping, driving while fatigued, driving while using alcohol and driving while possessing alcohol.

Justice William Stokes sentenced Weddle in March 2018 to 30 years in prison with all but 25 years suspended, to be followed by four years of probation. The sentence was the longest prison sentence imposed in Maine in a vehicular manslaughter case.

The case stems from a 2016 crash that claimed the lives of 45-year-old Christina Torres-York of Warren and 74-year-old Paul Fowles of Owls Head. Tracy Cook of Union was injured, sustaining multiple broken bones and a concussion from the crash, which occurred on Route 17 in Washington.

Testimony during the trial showed Weddle was under the influence of alcohol and speeding when the crash occurred.

The prosecution pointed out in its sentencing recommendation that Weddle had 12 convictions for operating under the influence and 11 speeding tickets prior to the 2016 fatal crash. Those were among 51 criminal and traffic violations.

Weddle's driver's license was suspended in Louisiana and Virginia at the time of the fatal crash in Washington, because of OUI convictions.

Weddle lived in Virginia on the Tennessee border, and when his license in Virginia was suspended for drunk driving, he went across the state line to get a license in Tennessee.

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Comments (2)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Feb 10, 2020 14:53

This is still going on? In the meantime the loved ones of those he killed are grieving, living without a loved one and he still gets another day in court at the taxpayers expense? Where is the Justice?

Posted by: Jeannie L. Wood | Feb 10, 2020 13:03

Really ???? The piece of %$%^ has a record stating not to drive in certain states because of prior offensives, drives well over the speed limit, unsecured load & even if he wasn't under the influence he killed people because of his stupidity of driving reckless. His lawyer is an idiot for trying to help this clown. SWW husband of Jeannie

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